South Coast grandfather, 71, eligible for parole in 2039 after years of child sex abuse

The parents whose children were victims of the assaults. Picture: Georgia Matts
The parents whose children were victims of the assaults. Picture: Georgia Matts

A South Coast grandfather has been sentenced to 32 years behind bars for the systemic child sexual abuse and "psychological mutilation" inflicted upon five of his own grandchildren for at least 11 years.

In the attic of his Sussex Inlet home, his car, his holiday caravan and a South Coast motel, the 71-year-old man inflicted varying levels of sexual predation on the grandchildren entrusted to his care; plying them with drugs and alcohol and using them for the production and dissemination of child pornography.

Police investigators and prosecutors maintain it is the worst case of child sex abuse they have ever seen.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identities of the children involved, was handed the lengthy sentence, with a non-parole period of 24 years, at Penrith Court House on Monday.

The 71-year-old has been in custody since he was first arrested in June 2015, in the driveway of his home.

It came within 48 hours of a key victim, his then-15-year-old step-granddaughter, first disclosing more than a decade of abuse to her mother and then police.

Her disclosure detailed the grooming and manipulation tactics used by her step-grandfather, which she remembers beginning before she started school.

Most chillingly she told investigators of a purpose-built film studio, located in the attic of his home; containing a mattress, lighting and cameras, where she was subjected to the production of child pornography with her grandfather.

Following her disclosure, her then 13-year-old brother reported that he had also been a victim at the hands of the grandfather, who had been supplying him with prescription drugs since the age of seven and later, cannabis.

A further three biological granddaughters then came forward to police with accounts of sexual abuse and grooming behaviour perpetrated by the man.

The abuse would often take place on weekends and holidays, when the man and the children's biological grandmother would have the children in their care.

His persistent grooming included making offers of money and "modelling contracts" to coerce them into posing in a sexualised way.

The man appeared before a judge-alone trial at the start of this year and in March was found guilty of 73 of 77 counts, resulting from five different complainants, and related to myriad offences.

He maintains a plea of not guilty on all counts.

Delivering the sentence on Monday, Judge Robert Sutherland described the abuse as "abhorrent," "heinous" and "depraved".

"The psychological mutilation of young developing minds occasioned by such conduct ... can lead to very substantial if not lifelong impairment of such young persons," he said.

During the investigation, led by the NSW Child Sex Abuse and Sex Crimes unit, police recovered three videos and a number of still images consistent with child pornography, involving the man's two step-grandchildren.

Judge Sutherland found the man's step-grandchildren had been subject to grooming from a young age, which later reached "Machiavellian proportions," when he created three fictitious characters, to persistently threaten the children by text message.

A psychiatric assessment of the man, conducted in June, found he satisfied the "psychiatric diagnostic criteria for at least a paedophilic disorder".

It described him as "somewhat vague, contradictory and eluding in his denial" of the offences, with "limited empathy for the victims".

In a statement read to the court, the man's step-granddaughter, now 19, said even though her childhood had been "taken away," she was "stronger and ... will rise above the trauma and continue with my life and all the good that is in it".

Her brother, 17, told the court in his own statement: "At the hands of [my step-grandfather] I became nothing. I had to destroy myself from the inside out, in order to realise that the world was not my enemy."

The children's mother, the man's stepdaughter, said the hardest thing for the family was accepting the way the man "took advantage of our trust in him to manipulate and brainwash our children. The deceit, was very hard to cope with."

She added that the lengthy sentence, at the end of more than three painful years through the courts, showed "all the hard work of police was worth it.

"It's about time."

After his sentence was handed down on Monday, the 71-year-old did not make eye contact with his victims and their extended family in the packed court room, but held up his middle finger before being escorted from the room.

With time already served, he will be eligible for release in June 2039.