Warning: This story contains graphic content
A man who sexually abused two children caused devastating pain and prolonged suffering to the victims and their families by changing his plea and delaying the court case.
One of the child victims took their own life as a teenager before the case was finalised at court.
The man, who The Courier cannot name to protect the victims' identities, was sentenced at the County Court of Victoria on Friday to at least three years in prison.
The man was in a relationship with a woman for two years and was found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting her son when he was aged between four and six-years-old.
The man had developed a close relationship with the boy, who was diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, and was seen as a father figure.
He would shower the young boy and 30 times rubbed his erect penis against the boy's penis and told the boy it was 'sword fighting'.
These children were in your care and in (the boy's) case there was an emotional bond you exploited. You are without remorse.Judge Hassan
The boy made disclosures to his mother and the man told police the 'sword fighting' was innocent play.
A second charge of indecent act with a child was laid when he made a nine-year-old girl touch his penis while babysitting her.
The girl's mother was a family member and the girl called the man 'uncle'. The girl had physical and intellectual disabilities.
"The girl said you would wrap her in a towel, take her to the bed and roll her onto the bed naked," Judge Anne Hassan.
"Game playing set up the opportunity to offend by normalising sexualised conduct between you and her."
The court heard the case was delayed for many years, with one trial and one plea hearing aborted because the man changed his plea.
A trial was heard this year and a jury found him guilty of both charges.
"The victims and families have suffered considerable stress and anguish at the length of delay in this matter," Judge Hassan said.
Both of the victim's mother's said in statements to the court they were devastated by the offending as they trusted the man and worried about their children's futures.
One mother's victim impact statement was made before her child took their own life.
The child had made a victim impact statement before he died, saying the man was like his dad and he believed he would love and protect him.
He said he felt anxiety and depression, did not leave his room and sometimes felt 'it would be easier if I wasn't here'.
"I really can't stand this court case for much longer. It is really affecting my mental health and emotions," he wrote in the statement before his death.
"I don't think I will ever be okay. You made me have to relive it and go through it again, answer those questions over and over again.
"You were the one male apart from my grandpa I thought would never hurt me, but you did."
Judge Hassan said the man caused distress to two families who trusted him and targeted young vulnerable victims.
"These children were in your care and in (the boy's) case there was an emotional bond you exploited. You are without remorse," she said.
Judge Hassan said no sentence could restore the boy to his family and undo the tragedy of his death.
She said she could not make a causal link between the offending and his death in sentencing.
The court heard the man told a doctor he was physically and sexually abused himself as a child.
He spent time in prison in the past for possessing and accessing child pornography and was assessed as having limited insight into his sexual offending.
The man was convicted and sentenced to four years and three months' imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years.
He has already served 251 days in prison.
Affected by this story? There is help available. You can phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, in Sebastopol, on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.
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