A man who bedded his step-niece when he was 31 and she was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday will not spend time behind bars, a Wollongong judge has ruled.
In Wollongong District Court on Friday, Judge Paul Conlon put the man on a nine-month suspended prison sentence.
The man had pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse with a child under 16, a charge resulting from events at a family gathering in January, 2011.
Then, the girl and her stepfather’s brother left a beachside picnic and returned to the man’s Albion Park Rail home, so he could greet late-arriving relatives and she could collect swimming vests.
The court heard the man removed the girl’s bikini bottom and performed oral sex, then interfered with her a second time, using a condom.
The girl later moved into the man’s home – which he shared with his wife and young child – so she could attend a nearby TAFE campus.
She moved out after arguing with the man about her failure to attend classes, and soon disclosed the abuse, about 14 months after it had occurred.
Judge Conlon noted the man had been entrusted with the girl’s welfare when he took her to his home on the day of his offending, but added he had not abused a position of authority or threatened violence.
‘‘This was an opportunistic act.’’ The court heard the pair continued a sporadic sexual relationship after the girl turned 16 – the age of consent.
‘‘Any act [after the girl turned 16] was simply legal,’’ Judge Conlon said.
In a statement, the victim said she suffered anxiety and depression as a result of the man’s offending, which Judge Conlon placed at the lowest end on a scale of seriousness.
The judge also considered comments in which the man indicated his regret: ‘‘I know I done the wrong thing ... I gave into temptation ... it was the biggest mistake of my life.’’
The court heard the man’s marriage had survived his offending, but relationships in his wider family had fractured since the girl’s disclosure.