Castlemaine paedophile finally jailed


13 Aug, 2010 04:00 AM

A CASTLEMAINE man who sexually assaulted a young girl more than a decade ago has finally been brought to justice.

John Robert Hunter, 74, was this week sentenced to a minimum term of 18 months’ jail after being found guilty on two charges of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under the age of 16.

His name and details will also be placed on the sex offenders’ register for the next 15 years.

During a gruelling trial in the Bendigo County Court earlier this year, the victim told the court that Hunter made her wear a woman’s size blue dress and then sexually assaulted her when she was a young child during the 1990s.

Hunter pleaded not guilty to the two charges plus a range of others relating to the young girl and her older sister.

Both girls were called to give evidence during three separate trials, which the family said were riddled with problems and left the victims, now aged 18 and 25, both physically and emotionally distressed.

During the first trial held in May this year, both girls were called to give evidence about the sexual assaults that related to the oversized blue dress.

Both girls said Hunter made them wear the dress before he sexually assaulted them.

The older girl gave evidence in relation to three charges including two counts of sexual penetration and one count of an indecent act, while the younger gave evidence in relation to two counts of an indecent act.

The jury found Hunter guilty on the charges relating to the younger girl, but acquitted him of the three relating the older girl.

The next trial, which related to a number of charges solely concerning the older girl, began, but was deemed a mistrial after the defence asked the police informant a question that could have infringed on the rights of the accused to a fair hearing.

A retrial was ordered to begin the following day, but the girl felt she was unable to be cross-examined for a second time and the case was adjourned indefinitely.

The third trial related to 11 counts of sex offences in regards to the younger girl.

The jury found Hunter not guilty on all counts.

The verdicts angered the girl’s family, who after the trial wrote a letter to numerous people and organisations including Attorney-General Rob Hulls, trial Judge Michael McInerney and the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

“I cannot adequately describe the crushing weight that two small words can impose upon an individual,’’ the girl’s father wrote.

‘‘The utterance of the words “not guilty’’ from the foreman of the jury bought chilling, painful howls from (the younger girl) on each occasion that sounded almost physical – from the bottom of her gut.

“That these wonderful, beautiful girls riven with a toxic combination of fear, guilt, shame and embarrassment had the strength to come forward at all and face their demon is a testament to their courage and strength.

“I had encouraged these children to have faith in the justice system, which I believe has failed them.’’

The family said it was disappointed that a bulk of the evidence police had gathered was pushed aside and not presented before a jury because the defence had argued it painted Hunter in a lesser light.

“Something is manifestly wrong with a system that falls over itself to protect the rights of the accused to a fair trial while doing little to afford the people who have the intestinal fortitude to come forward with the same right,’’ the father wrote.

On the two counts of indecent assault, Hunter was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail with a non-parole period of 18 months.

Family angry at court treatment of Hunter’s victims


13 Aug, 2010 04:00 AM

THE family of the two girls who accused John Robert Hunter of sexually assaulting them when they were children says it is disappointed in the way the girls where treated during the trial.

The family said it was particularly disappointed in the lack of facilities and resources at the Bendigo Law Courts for victims of sexual assault cases who are called to give evidence.

The two girls, who now live interstate, were required to attend the trial in the Bendigo County Court, which, according to the family, was originally scheduled to take five to seven days.

However, during the first day the defence successfully separated the case into three separate trials before three separate juries, so that each girl’s accusations could not influence the separate juries.

The three trials ended up taking four weeks.

During that time, the girls and their family were holed up in two motel rooms and then, after the first week, a two-bedroom apartment.

When they did attend court to give evidence, the girls’ family said there were no provisions for victims and that they were left outside the court, where the defendant often walked past them.

“This was most humiliating for them,’’ the girls’ grandfather said.

“Could there not have been a room for the victims to wait to give their evidence away from prying eyes?’’

During a trial, victims are often put through the “gut-wrenching rigours’’ of testifying and are often cross-examined by the defence.

For the older girl in the Hunter case, the issue was compounded when, because of an inappropriate question asked by the defence to the police informant, the case was deemed a mistrial.

For the case to be reheard, the girl would have had to have been cross-examined for a second time, something her grandfather said she felt physically and emotionally unable to do.

As a result, the prosecution was forced to discontinue with the charges.

The family also questioned the use of an old CD player to play a recording of Hunter’s police interview to the court.

The girls’ grandfather said the device’s volume was not adequate, which made the interview very hard for the jury to hear and understand.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob Hulls said the government had passed legislation to ensure that victims of sexual assault could have their evidence recorded to avoid coming into contact with the accused.

She said the state budget had provided $2 million for a Legal Services Masterplan to assess the future needs of all Victorian courts, including Bendigo.

Hunter was this week convicted of two counts of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16 (the younger girl).

He will serve at least 18 months in jail and will be listed on the sex offenders’ register for 15 years.

The charges date back more than a decade, when the victim, now 18, was a young child.

Man for trial: sisters sex claim


16 Dec, 2009 04:00 AM

A CASTLEMAINE man accused of the repeated rape and sexual abuse of two sisters, one aged just three, has been ordered to stand trial.

After a three-day hearing in the Bendigo County Court, the jury committed John Robert Hunter to stand trial over the alleged sexual abuse of two sisters during a period spanning nearly a decade.

Hunter is not related to the two girls.

The assaults are alleged to have occurred when one victim was aged between seven and 12.

The other girl was aged between four and nine.

The 73-year-old retired painter is charged with offences alleged to have occurred between July 1991 and August 1999.

He faces 25 charges, including multiple counts of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and performing an indecent act with a child under 16.

He is also charged with single counts of performing an indecent act in the presence of a child under 16, and the attempted sexual penetration of a child under 16.

During a committal hearing in the Bendigo Magistrates Court in May, the court was told Hunter became a trusted friend of the family and would often take the girls on day trips to Bendigo.

Hunter would often give the girls chocolates and sweets, an act the girl’s parents would sometimes feel uncomfortable about.

“He sort of treated our kids as if they were his grandchildren,” the girl’s father told the court during the committal hearing.

After hearing evidence from a clinical and forensic psychologist and a neuropsychologist, the jury decided Hunter was mentally capable of standing trial.

He will return to the Bendigo County Court in May.

Child rape claim denied

9/05/2009 9:04:00 AM

A MAN accused of the repeated rape and sexual abuse of two sisters, one aged just three, says he is innocent of all charges.

John Robert Hunter formally entered a plea of not guilty yesterday following a day-long contested committal hearing at the Bendigo Magistrates Court.

The 73-year-old faces 25 charges, including multiple counts of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16, and indecent assault.

The girls have accused Hunter, who is not related to them, of repeated rapes and abuse during the 1990s.

Police contend that the assaults started when the older girl was aged seven and her sister just three.

Yesterday’s committal hearing centred on the older girl, now 24.

The woman gave evidence via videolink to a closed court for nearly 90 minutes.

Afterwards, her parents spoke, with the girls’ father telling the court Hunter would often take his children on day trips to Bendigo.

“John became part of the furniture of your house?’’ defence lawyer Rod Willcox asked.

“Eventually, yes, he did,’’ the girls’ father said.

He told the court he often found Hunter “odd,’’ but put it down to a man living alone.

“(There was) a general feeling he was a little different,’’ he added.

The man said Hunter would often give his children chocolates and sweets, an act he and his wife were sometimes uncomfortable with.

“It got a little out of control,’’ he said.

After he warned Hunter to stop feeding the young girls following a reprimand from a dentist, the girls’ father said Hunter only became “more clever’’ in the way he gave them gifts.

“He was a persistent person, John,’’ he said.

“He sort of treated our kids as if they were his grandchildren.’’

Both parents spoke of an incident when the older daughter, aged about eight at the time, and her friend had a barbecue at Hunter’s home.

“(Our daughter) came home and told me Mr Hunter had done something,’’ the girls’ mother said.

“She just said something had happened.’’

The court heard that the younger daughter was about three when she came home and said she had seen Hunter naked.

When confronted, the then 59-year-old said he had accidentally dropped the towel on his way to the bathroom.

Six years later, the girl told her parents she had seen pornographic material at Hunter’s home.

Both parents said that as the years went on, the children began saying they didn’t want Hunter around for dinner any more.

Neither asked them why.

Magistrate William Gibb said he was satisfied the evidence was of sufficient weight for Hunter to appear before the County Court.

When asked how he was pleading, Hunter said: “Not guilty, sir.’’

Hunter will reappear at court on June 2 for a directions hearing at the Melbourne County Court.

As a condition of his bail he was barred from contacting witnesses or attending international points of departure.


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  1. greg says:

    Tnere is only one rule under which to try these sick bastards… Rule 303 ,that is take them out to a paddock and let them run as far as they can while you count to ten – then mercily empty a 303 clip into them….and thats being too kind. The father.

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