Castlemaine paedophile finally jailed
A Castlemaine man who sexually assaulted a young girl more than a decade ago has finally been brought to justice.
John Robert Hunter, 74, was this week sentenced to a minimum term of 18 months’ jail after being found guilty on two charges of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under the age of 16.
His name and details will also be placed on the sex offenders’ register for the next 15 years.
During a gruelling trial in the Bendigo County Court earlier this year, the victim told the court that Hunter made her wear a woman’s size blue dress and then sexually assaulted her when she was a young child during the 1990s.
Hunter pleaded not guilty to the two charges plus a range of others relating to the young girl and her older sister.
Both girls were called to give evidence during three separate trials, which the family said were riddled with problems and left the victims, now aged 18 and 25, both physically and emotionally distressed.
During the first trial held in May this year, both girls were called to give evidence about the sexual assaults that related to the oversized blue dress.
Both girls said Hunter made them wear the dress before he sexually assaulted them.
The older girl gave evidence in relation to three charges including two counts of sexual penetration and one count of an indecent act, while the younger gave evidence in relation to two counts of an indecent act.
The jury found Hunter guilty on the charges relating to the younger girl, but acquitted him of the three relating the older girl.
The next trial, which related to a number of charges solely concerning the older girl, began, but was deemed a mistrial after the defence asked the police informant a question that could have infringed on the rights of the accused to a fair hearing.
A retrial was ordered to begin the following day, but the girl felt she was unable to be cross-examined for a second time and the case was adjourned indefinitely.
The third trial related to 11 counts of sex offences in regards to the younger girl.
The jury found Hunter not guilty on all counts.
The verdicts angered the girl’s family, who after the trial wrote a letter to numerous people and organisations including Attorney-General
Rob Hulls, trial Judge Michael McInerney and the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
“I cannot adequately describe the crushing weight that two small words can impose upon an individual,’’ the girl’s father wrote.
‘‘The utterance of the words “not guilty’’ from the foreman of the jury bought chilling, painful howls from (the younger girl) on each
occasion that sounded almost physical – from the bottom of her gut.
“That these wonderful, beautiful girls riven with a toxic combination of fear, guilt, shame and embarrassment had the strength to come
forward at all and face their demon is a testament to their courage and strength.
“I had encouraged these children to have faith in the justice system, which I believe has failed them."
The family said it was disappointed that a bulk of the evidence police had gathered was pushed aside and not presented before a jury
because the defence had argued it painted Hunter in a lesser light.
“Something is manifestly wrong with a system that falls over itself to protect the rights of the accused to a fair trial while doing
little to afford the people who have the intestinal fortitude to come forward with the same right,’’ the father wrote.
On the two counts of indecent assault, Hunter was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Bendigo Advertiser (13-8-2010)