A Middle Eastern refugee who grabbed, groped and licked female joggers on a popular running route in Christchurch has today avoided jail and been granted permanent name suppression.
The man, dubbed the ‘Port Hills Groper’, pleaded guilty last November to eight charges of indecent assault.
He approached the women on the running and biking trails and touched seven on the breasts and one on the buttocks. The youngest was aged just 16.
Most of the offences were in the second half of 2012, but one dates to 2010.
When the 64-year-old appeared before Christchurch District Court for sentencing today one of his targets read out her victim impact statement.
She said she was “frightened, humiliated and eventually angry” after the assault.
The man walked up to her smiled, touched, her breast and walked away.
“I was so shocked he did that. I felt quite frightened for a long time afterwards.”
She still walks in the area six times a week because she wouldn’t let him “spoil” her outings.
“I have a right to do that without someone putting their hands on me.”
Like the police, the woman argued the offender should be “named and shamed” because he was a “predator and not a frail old man”.
Defence counsel Moana Cole told the court she didn’t think jail was appropriate because her client’s crimes were at the low end of the scale, he was a first-time offender and not offended since.
His family had put in place a “safety plan” to prevent further offending, and to “protect [the offender] as much as the wider community”.
The offending was described by Judge Jane Farish as “highly opportunistic and brazen” but she said the seriousness of the crimes did not warrant a jail term.
“Cultural ambiguities”, highlighted in a psychologist’s report before the courts, may have led to the man’s bizarre actions, Judge Farish believed.
She sentenced him to 300 hours of community work and 12 months’ supervision.
Judge Farish also granted permanent name suppression on the grounds that his identification would have major repercussions for him and his family and place huge stresses on them.
It would lead to the whole family to being “socially isolated” and “ostracised”, the judge said.
She said the “misnomer of Port Hills Groper” had vilified him in relation to his offending.
His wife had been subjected to “inappropriate conduct” by a member of the public which forced the family to move house.
Reporting restrictions were put on his ethnicity and religion, but Judge Farish said media could say he was of “Middle Eastern extraction”.
The Probation Service and Immigration Service will work to help him reintegrate into society.