Peter Anthony Snowden, 67, has been jailed for indecently assaulting three children. (File photo)
A Blenheim man jailed for sexually abusing three children seemed to care more about himself than the lifelong harm he caused them, a judge says.
Peter Anthony Snowden, 67, admitted a string of charges of indecent assault against three girls aged under 12 over a 13-year period.
Despite his guilty pleas earlier this year, Snowden told report writers that he did not recall the offending due to his heavy drinking, and that it was just physical contact that had been misinterpreted, according to sentencing documents released last week.
Judge Jo Rielly said at sentencing in the Blenheim District Court in July the girls were significantly impacted by Snowden’s “abhorrent” behavior, and there had been flow-on effects throughout their lives.
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One of the girls said in a victim impact statement that the semi-regular assaults had affected her ability to trust other men in her life, affected her sense of safety, destroyed her relationships with family members, and changed the shape of her whole life.
Another girl said she had insomnia and nightmares and it had affected her relationships as well.
The third victim said some days her feeling of sadness was overwhelming.
“I note with sadness that she is afraid for her future,” Judge Rielly said.
“I hope … that after today she can have a sense of closure and look forward to her future, and at least in part but this behind her, because that is what she deserves.”
Snowden’s behavior was planned and premeditated, and showed a pattern of offending, Judge Rielly said.
Justice Minister Kiri Allan said alcohol is “so ingrained in our culture”, and change is coming.
An alcohol and drug report said Snowden had been a heavy drinker most of his adult life, but that did not explain his behavior.
Judge Rielly said she was concerned that Snowden’s comments to report writers contradicted his claim that he took responsibility for his actions. His apology letter spoke about the offending as if it was a single event, and he said it had been traumatic for him.
It seemed Snowden’s real concern was for his situation, rather than the victims, she said.
Judge Rielly was also concerned his $6000 donation to Women’s Refuge shortly before sentencing was an attempt to buy a shorter sentence, however after hearing from his lawyer she accepted it was a genuine attempt to make amends for the harm he had caused, by funding a charity that helped sex abuse victims.
But overall Snowden did not show genuine remorse, she said.
“I consider that you are still at least in part in denial about what you did to each and every one of them.”
Urgent changes to the law on the child sex offender register mean that hundreds of convicted offenders are back on the list. But one justice rights advocate says it doesn’t mean that children are safer.
She acknowledged Snowden was prepared to do sex abuse prevention courses, although she wondered how effective it would be if he was still in denial.
Snowden had argued that his health issues would make prison difficult, but Judge Rielly said that it was not uncommon for older offenders.
“Sadly in our country, many people your age and older are regularly sentenced for offending behavior of this kind.”
Judge Rielly sentenced Snowden to two years and eight months’ imprisonment. He would be automatically added to the Child Sex Offender Register.
Snowden also sought permanent name suppression as he thought publication would worsen his fragile physical and mental health issues, unfairly affect his wife, and make his rehabilitation and reintegration into society more difficult.
But his victims, and the Crown, wanted him named.
An interim order suppressing his name until the end of an appeal period had since lapsed.
Sexual violence: Where to get help
Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
Victim Support 0800 842 846.
The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.
Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843
Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more (males only).
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation, click the Shielded icon at the bottom of this website to contact Women’s Refuge in a safe and anonymous way without it being traced in your browser history. If you’re in our app, visit the mobile website here to access Shielded.
Mental health: Where to get help
1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counselor.
Anxiety New Zealand 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
Depression.org.nz 0800 111 757 or text 4202
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Yellow Brick Road 0800 732 825
thelowdown.co.nz Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18-year-olds). Phone counseling available Monday-Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.
If it is an emergency, click here to find the number for your local crisis assessment team.