The Court of Appeal (Justice Whelan and Justice McLeish) today dismissed an appeal against sentence by the appellant, Lucille Gillespie (a pseudonym), in respect of her conviction for persistent sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16. The appellant became close to the complainant through her daughter, who was his friend. The offending continued over more than two years. At the time, the complainant was between the ages of 12 and 14. The appellant is 24 years older and was one of the complainant’s carers. They had sexual intercourse many times and never used a condom. The appellant continued the offending after being confronted about the nature of her relationship with the complainant by her then husband. The offending resulted in the birth of a child in 2014.

The appellant pleaded guilty early and did not have any prior convictions. She was sentenced to a term of six years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and six months. The maximum sentence for the offence is 25 years’ imprisonment.

The appellant was sentenced as a ‘serious sexual offender’ under the Sentencing Act 1991. This was an error made by the sentencing judge relying on an erroneous submission by the prosecutor. The Court granted leave to appeal and concluded that it could not be satisfied that the error could not have materially affected the sentence. As a result, the Court was required to determine whether a different sentence should be imposed.

The Court was not satisfied that a different sentence should now be imposed. The Court said that general deterrence and denunciation of the offending conduct were very important sentencing considerations in this case. The Court said the appellant’s moral culpability was very high, given the substantial age difference, the complainant’s very young age when the offending commenced, his known vulnerability, the appellant’s role as a carer, the pregnancy and birth of the child, and the fact that the offending continued after the appellant was confronted about the nature of the relationship.

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NOTE: This summary is necessarily incomplete. It is not intended as a substitute for the Court’s reasons or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment.

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Author
Supreme Court of Victoria
Publisher
Supreme Court of Victoria
Date of Publication

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