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Opinion: Paedophiles need harsher penalties

Tuesday 22 Jan 2013 4:30p.m.

Opinion: Paedophiles need harsher penalties

Opinion by Rachel Tiffen

It's nearly five months since I first heard the name Trevor Hall.

If you haven't followed my coverage, Hall is a 65-year-old father and grandfather from the Bay of Plenty who used to volunteer at the Salvation Army.

He purports to be a good, Christian man.

In reality, he's an unabashed paedophile.

Desperate to stop him from hurting anymore little girls, the mother of one of his victims contacted me wanting to be interviewed, inadvertently opening the floodgates to several more.

For legal reasons, we couldn't identify the woman or the child, but if the Whakatane mother had her way she would have screamed down the barrel of the camera. She wanted every mother and father in New Zealand warned.

You see, it wasn't Hall's first offence. Far from it.

As a 10-year-old Hall forced other little boys to perform sexual acts in the playground. Or so he told the seven-year-old girl in Whakatane as he assaulted her.

Despite his early start, Hall wasn't convicted of indecent assault until some four decades later in Queensland.

The sentencing judge said Hall's offending - against his four-year-old grandniece and nine-year-old grandnephew - was "one of the worst breaches of trust" he'd ever encountered and the siblings had suffered "a combination of adverse impact and nervous and mental shock".

After 17 months Hall was released, deported to New Zealand and red-flagged by the New Zealand Police.

But that flag didn't fly for the Whakatane mother and daughter because the Salvation Army never checked him out.

And so Hall met the young mother and daughter in the Bay of Plenty township's second-hand store.

Hall's modus operandi is textbook paedophilia.

Single out the lonely, vulnerable, single mum with child in need of a father figure then gain their trust, ingratiate yourself into their home life and exploit it.

The night the Whakatane girl told her mother what "yucky Trevor" had done to her, both mother and daughter cried and cried for hours.

The mother was wracked with guilt for her choices and consumed by anger that grew into determination to stop him.

The Salvation Army made matters worse. The mother was disbelieved, shunned in fact even after Hall had admitted his crime.

Once 3 News reported on Hall, they admitted their processes needed work.

On December 17 last year, Judge Peter Rollo sentenced Hall to 12 months home detention in the Tauranga District Court.

Hall's medical condition, Judge Rollo said, made a term of imprisonment "disproportionately severe" to his offending. Hall, a lifelong-smoker, has emphysema.

Meanwhile another alleged victim, from 25 years prior, watched the 3 News coverage in disbelief and anger.

This woman wasn't lucky enough to have had a supportive mother. She wasn't believed, so she bottled it up.

But Hall's behaviour, which at times was downright brazen and arrogant, left her scarred - mentally, physically and romantically. As an adult, intimacy feels dirty and wrong.

To her, the Judge's sentence of home detention sends an appalling message. To her, it says 'molest our children and you'll get sent home' or 'a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket for you paedophiles out there'.

The sentence has put her off going to the police or being interviewed by media.

She believes there are dozens more out there, like her.

I was also approached by another mother of two more alleged victims. Hall assaulted her children, she says, while she was in hospital giving birth to twins. The children were interviewed at the time and the mother heard nothing more.

Police have since admitted they may have botched it and have re-interviewed one of the alleged victims. But, no charges have been laid.

So exactly what message are the people in charge of upholding and presiding over the law trying to send?

Former Northland teacher James Parker faces 72 charges of sexual offending against boys. The judge has indicated he will consider a sentence of preventive detention - that is, indefinite custody.

So, once it's bad enough we'll lock them up, but how bad does it need to get?

 
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