A man, 90, has been sentenced over sex abuse offences.
A man, 90, has been sentenced over sex abuse offences. Marc Stapelberg

'Serious breach of trust': Man, 90, sentenced over abuse

AN ELDERLY man could be remanded in a mental health facility after facing court on child sex offences.

The 90-year-old was unfit to stand trial and instead faced a special hearing before Lismore District Court.

He was found to have committed 10 offences, including two counts of sexual intercourse with a person under 10 years, grooming a child under 14 years and seven counts of indecently assaulting a person under 16 years which were committed between 2010 and 2013. But he was not formally convicted of the offences.

The court heard the victim was a girl, aged between seven and 10 at the time of the abuse, who was the foster child of the man's wife. The man was not registered as a foster carer.

The abuse - vehemently denied by the man and his family - involved incidents of varying nature, involved touching of the girl's breasts and genitals and sexual intercourse.

In handing down her judgment yesterday, Judge Wells said the girl had been deeply impacted by the attacks.

"The offences occurred in the only home the complainant had ever known," she said.

"The offences all involve a serious breach of trust.

"These are regarded very seriously by the community and legislature, hence the significant maximum penalties.

"They are designed to protect out most vulnerable members of the community."

Judge Wells last week heard submissions about the man's declining cognitive state, including a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in the years since the offending.

His defence argued this condition could have an impact on the man's moral culpability, but the prosecution said there was no evidence of cognitive impairment during the time in question.

Judge Wells said only "slight" weight should be given to speculation on his mental state at the time of the abuse in light of a lack of evidence.

More significant, she said, was his current state of dementia and a host of physical ailments, along with "mild" post-traumatic stress disorder and claustrophobia which arose from his service during the Second World War.

The court heard the man would be more severely affected by a custodial sentence than the average prisoner.

Judge Wells gave the man a seven year limiting sentence, as opposed to a prison sentence.

He's expected to serve this as a forensic patient in a mental health facility.

The man was released on bail pending an assessment from the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which will consider where he should serve the term.

If found guilty before a full criminal trial, the man could have faced life in prison.