Dunedin rape case deemed ‘exceptional’, teenager gets home detention

WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT

A teenager who lured his victim to a secluded area and held her by the throat while he raped her has avoided imprisonment.

Reuben Thomas Hanna (18) was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention yesterday after Judge Russell Walker in the Dunedin District Court found the case was an “exceptional” one.

He accepted the teenager’s remorse was genuine and that a head injury sustained in a workplace accident would make a term behind bars unfairly arduous.

The judge acknowledged several references before the court from Hanna’s supporters which described him in glowing terms and in which they said they were “shocked and dumbfounded” when they heard about the sex attack.

“For someone described by others as normally kind, caring and trustworthy, on this particular day you totally betrayed the trust the victim had in you in the most callous way,” he said.

The victim’s life had changed immeasurably because of the trauma she suffered, the court heard.

“I feel like my body is no longer mine,” she said.

“I’m no longer comfortable giving hugs or telling people how I feel.”

While the cuts and bruises from the incident faded, the psychological wounds remained raw, and were exacerbated when people confronted her, claiming Hanna was innocent.

“It’s been over a year now and it still haunts me every day,” the woman said.

“I’ll never ever forgive you for breaking me like that, because I don’t even know who I’ve become.”

The pair, who were 17 at the time, were socialising with friends in separate areas of Dunedin on April 6 last year.

At Hanna’s request, the victim met him in Albany St, where he repeatedly groped her despite her telling him to stop.

Later, the defendant contacted her again, telling her to return alone.

That showed definite elements of premeditation in his pursuit of the vulnerable young woman, Judge Walker said.

“She was young, alone and affected by alcohol,” he said.

When they met, Hanna said he had something to tell her and guided her behind a building.

Once alone, he grabbed at her and tried to kiss her while the victim rebuffed his advances.

The woman messaged a friend for help but before they arrived she was forced on to a wooden landing.

Hanna placed a hand around her throat and raped her while the victim screamed at him to stop.

Counsel Anne Stevens QC said her client had attended drug and alcohol counselling since the attack and had saved $5000 to pay the victim.

While she said yesterday that home detention was the appropriate outcome, it can now be revealed that in June there was a sentencing indication in which she argued the defendant should be discharged without conviction.

“He will be labelled a rapist … almost like a mark on your face, visible to all … He would never be able to redeem himself from that label,” she said.

On that occasion, Judge Jane McMeeken firmly rejected the possibility of a discharge.

“When somebody commits a serious offence there are consequences,” she said.

Hanna’s stepmother wrote an affidavit saying the teen suffered parental absence through his formative years and his father had been suffering severe depression at the time of the rape.

The court heard, since the incident, the defendant had fallen from scaffolding head-first on to a protruding bolt, requiring a craniectomy.

Stevens said her client — who wore protective headgear to court — was scheduled to have further surgery next month, when a titanium plate would be inserted to protect his brain and relieve pressure.

As well as the home detention, Hanna was sentenced to 200 hours’ community work and ordered to pay the victim $5000.

SEXUAL HARM – DO YOU NEED HELP?

If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email [email protected]
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat

Alternatively contact your local police station – click here for a list.

If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.

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