NZ Local News

High profile Wellington man with ‘distinguished’ career escapes conviction for sex act in neighbour’s home caught on camera

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The man appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court this afternoon. Photo / File

WARNING: Sexual content.

A high-profile Wellington man caught on camera performing a sex act in his neighbour’s house has escaped conviction and will also keep his name secret.

Despite opposition from the Herald, details about the man’s occupation and career, described as “distinguished” in service to New Zealand, have also been suppressed by a judge.

The 69-year-old’s offending came as he entered his female neighbour’s home at night twice, stripped naked and masturbated. She was not in the house at the time.

The second incident occurred when the man went back to look for a headlamp he believed he had accidentally left behind. While inside, he again performed a sex act.

The offending was captured on a camera the woman had set up to monitor her pets.

The man appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court for sentencing this afternoon, having already pleaded guilty to being unlawfully in a building.

NZME, the Herald’s publisher, and Stuff opposed permanent name suppression, which was sought by the man’s lawyer, Shanna Bolland, on the grounds that his career would be forever ruined and a high-risk of self-harm if his name was published.

Bolland said the offending arose while he was “in the grip of a complex and chaotic psychological state”.

“There were a number of circumstances, sir, that coincided to trigger an overwhelming psychological response,” she told the judge.

Psychologists assessed the man as being at serious risk of suicide, and Bolland said his suicidal thoughts had recently progressed to “plans”.

“Emotionally and psychologically, sir, he is oscillating between slivers of hope and abject despair and hopelessness,” she told Judge Tim Black.

The victim asked the court not to give him suppression, saying she felt “isolated” being unable to talk openly to family and friends about what had happened.

The 48-year-old woman read her victim impact statement in court and said she worked hard to afford a home in the pricey suburb of Eastbourne because she believed it would be a safe place to live alone.

“Perhaps the law does not recognise [the defendant] masturbating after he entered my home as a serious matter but I feel that it is, at its core, a threatening behaviour,” she said.

She questioned whether he would be able to work with vulnerable members of society, or how future neighbours would know not to give him their house keys to water their plants while away.

When making the permanent suppression order, Judge Black said the man was not a risk to anyone other than himself.

He found there was a “real and appreciable risk” the man could harm himself if his name was to be published.

While it had been pointed out that people of position and privilege shouldn’t be treated differently, the judge noted they should also not be “worse off” because of it either.

Bolland also applied for a discharge without conviction for her client.

Judge Black said the offending was not “what we would traditionally consider as sexual offending or sexually motivated”.

“It is fair to describe this offending as a complete aberration.”

He considered the man’s previous good character, “distinguished” service to New Zealand for many years, “clear remorse”, restorative efforts and guilty plea to all be mitigating factors.

Judge Black noted a conviction would also make it difficult for the man to continue in his career.

“Should this half day of aberrant behaviour define [the defendant’s] future? I consider it should not.”

He was satisfied “by a wide margin” the consequences of a conviction would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending.

He granted the discharge without conviction on the condition the man made a donation to the victim’s charity of choice.

He urged the man, who wept as the judge addressed him, to “celebrate the sun when it shines, if it ever does”.

“This act should not define who you are and who you can be.”

Where to get help

If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

For counselling and support

Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202

For children and young people

Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234

What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)

For help with specific issues

Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797

Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)

Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334

All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.

For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service. The Mental Health Foundation has more helplines and service contacts on its website.

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