Westport man jailed for indecent assaults on girl


A Westport man has been jailed for three and a half years for indecently assaulting a young girl.
Peter James Hartigan, 31, appeared in the Westport District Court on Wednesday for sentencing.
He had earlier been found guilty of 19 charges of indecently assaulting a child.
Both the pre-sentence report and psychologist’s report recommended Hartigan be treated in a special sex offender unit within prison.
His conviction means he will be placed on the child sex offender register.
Judge Tom Gilbert said it was “impossible to quantify” how many times Hartigan had indecently assaulted the victim.
However, given what he had admitted to police it seemed it was “well over 100”.
The extent of the offending meant any claim for previous good character was “simply hollow” which meant “no discount” in sentencing, he said.
Aggravating factors in Hartigan’s offending were the harm caused to his victim, the gross abuse of trust involved, the scale of the offending and the victim’s vulnerability.
Hartigan began the indecent assaults in 2014. They continued until earlier this year. The offences took place at different locations.
Judge Gilbert said the assaults included “skin on skin contact involving the genital region and buttocks”.
Hartigan had used such tactics against the victim as “bribes of lollies”, he said.
The judge told Hartigan what he had done to the victim had “stolen her innocence and blighted her childhood”.
He noted that Hartigan had pleaded guilty early and gave him credit for that.
The judge said there was no reason why name suppression should continue but publication must avoid any risk of identifying the victim.
He warned news media present in court that describing the relationship of Hartigan to the victim, thereby enabling the public to identify the victim, would be in contempt of court.
Crown representative Kelsy Watson had earlier told the court the Crown opposed the lifting of name suppression, despite the victim’s mother wanting Hartigan’s name made public.
The Crown believed that given the size of the community, lifting of name suppression risked the victim being identified.
Judge Gilbert told the court that anyone who made public any information, by which it was possible to identify the victim, would be in contempt of court.
Ms Watson said aggravating factors in Hartigan’s offending were the age of the victim, the breach of trust, the frequency and prolonged nature of the assaults and the pre-meditation involved.
Victim impact assessments from family members of the victim were read to the court at their request.
They spoke of the awful impact of Hartigan’s offending on the victim, of how her physical appearance and attitude deteriorated and of how her innocence had been stolen.
They talked of how Hartigan’s offending reverberated through the entire family, how their sense of security had been destroyed, how they could no longer trust and that their lives had been destroyed by what he had done.
Judge Gilbert told Hartigan the conviction meant Hartigan was now subject to the three strikes law.
Under the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010, there is a three-stage system of increasing consequences for repeat serious violent offenders, aged 18 and over.
The judge issued Hartigan with a first warning.
A first strike warning stays on an offender’s record for good unless their conviction is overturned. — Westport News

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