herald

Tuesday 19 June 2018

'It would be hard not to have sympathy for him', says trial judge

Judge Karen O'Connor
Judge Karen O'Connor

Judge Karen O'Connor sparked controversy with some of her comments in court, particularly an observation that it was difficult not to have sympathy for paedophile Tom Humphries.

She detailed mitigating factors she was taking into account in his case, which heard the writer's career was over and it was likely he would never work again.

"It would be difficult not to have some sympathy for him. I say that not to excuse in any way the behaviour but in relation to his current station," she said. "It is something of a truism to say that the higher the profile and success of a member of our society, the greater the fall."

The judge went on to say the case had received much media attention.

Family

"It has been difficult for all the parties. The injured party specifically referred to this aspect in her victim impact statement. And it has been difficult for Mr Humphries' family and no doubt a cause of distress to him for bringing this attention on his family," she said.

"He is a man who has no previous convictions, he has not come to adverse attention since and he lives a reclusive lifestyle."

The judge also gave Humphries some credit for pleading guilty, even though it was not until March of this year, three years after he was originally charged, that he did so.

The girl he abused had said in her statement the drawn-out nature of the case had a considerable effect on her.

Judge O'Connor remarked that the "most valuable form of mitigation in offences of a sexual nature is a guilty plea".

She said it was undoubtedly the case that an earlier plea would have been of greater value to the injured party and would have attracted greater credit in terms of mitigation.

However, she did give Humphries some credit for it.

"This assists an injured party by sparing them the apprehension and trauma of a criminal trial, the ordeal of cross-examination and having to describe personal matters in front of a jury and courtroom.

"This could have been a somewhat time-consuming trial which would deal with extensive phone records and evidence. As a result, the injured party was saved from having to give evidence," she said.

She acknowledged that the young woman described feeling guilt, shame and a sense of self hatred that she had allowed herself to be manipulated.

"I'm not of the view that she allowed herself to be manipulated. I'm of the view that she was manipulated," Judge O'Connor said.

She referred to a psychologist's report on how Humphries opened up and listed various health problems, such as insomnia and cardiac arrhythmia. She noted a psychologist's suggestion that he had a neurological cognitive disorder but said in her view Humphries was aware of his wrongdoing.

The judge classed the defilement charges as on the upper end of the mid range of offending and imposed a two-and-a-half-year sentence.

She noted that the exploitation charge carries a maximum life sentence, but imposed a two-year sentence to run concurrently with the two-and-a-half-year jail term.

She did not order any post-release supervision and backdated the sentence to when Humphries entered custody on October 3.

The judge continued: "Mr Humphries is clearly remorseful and has expressed that remorse by pleading guilty."

She also took into account letters submitted to the court by two of his daughters.

"He has the support of his daughters who speak in loving terms of him," she said.

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