26 Jan 2019

Name suppression lapses for academic who sexually assaulted elderly woman

9:48 am on 26 January 2019

An academic who sexually assaulted an 82-year-old woman at a resthome can now be named as Grant Hannis, a former associate professor of journalism at Massey University's Wellington campus.

Grant Hannis awaits sentencing at the Wellington District Court.

Grant Hannis awaits sentencing at the Wellington District Court. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Name suppression for the 55-year-old academic, who admitted indecently touching an elderly woman at a lower North Island resthome, lapsed at midnight on Friday.

Hannis appeared in the Wellington District Court on Friday on a charge of indecent assault and was sentenced to eight months' home detention and 100 hours of community work.

Judge Stephen Harrop outlined his offending, saying he followed his victim into her room at the resthome and shut the door.

"You kissed and touched her and put one hand on her breast and with the other rubbed her vagina on the outside of her clothing as she tried to push you away.

"You closed the curtains and again kissed the victim and touched her vagina. A caregiver saw you and ... left to find a manager."

Judge Harrop said Hannis then continued his assault on the woman, including showing her his genitals and removing her pants and underwear, and when he was asked about what had happened he claimed the woman had consented.

In court Hannis read out a statement apologising for the pain and distress he had caused to his victim and her family.

"I deeply regret what I did on May 27 last year. I will regret it for the rest of my life.

"First and foremost, I apologise to my victim. I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain and distress I caused you. What I did was wrong.

"Equally, I apologise to my victim's family. I am so sorry for the pain and hurt I caused you. You were entitled to assume your mum would be left in peace at the rest home. I undermined that."

Judge Stephen Harrop at the sentencing for the man who sexually assaulted an 82-year-old woman.

Judge Stephen Harrop at the sentencing for Hannis. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Hannis said he was mentally unwell when he offended and the pressures of overwork and looking after his mother had taken their toll.

He said he had lost his career, his self-esteem and his reputation and was in poor mental health.

Hannis was ordered to pay $3000 emotional harm reparation.

He sought permanent name suppression, but Judge Harrop granted it until midnight Friday, to allow him time to break the news of his offending to friends who had not been told of it.

In a statement, Massey University said it did not learn of the offending until after Hannis had stopped teaching as he had told no-one.

It said he should have told his manager about the charge as soon as it was laid so that Massey could have considered his employment position.

"That would have included options such as suspension from work and ending his contact with students as well as providing necessary support to students and staff," the statement said.

"This has come as a great shock to colleagues and no doubt to many students, past and present. In his apology in court, Dr Hannis said his colleagues and students would be appalled and horrified at what he had done. He is correct."

Hannis worked at Massey University from 2003 and between 2004-2017 was the head of journalism.

A Massey investigation of his personnel record showed nothing to suggest any inappropriate behaviour towards students or staff.

"The only complaint we are aware of occurred in October, subsequent to this offending, and involved students complaining about rudeness in the classroom. It was dealt with by his manager and Dr Hannis apologised to the students."

He requested early retirement in October last year and that took effect on 19 December.

Police hope Hannas' sentencing will allow the victim to move forward.

Detective Sergeant Anna Grant said the elderly victim and her family are still coming to terms with what has been a traumatic time for them.

She said cases like this are emotional for the victim and their family, and for police staff dealing with the case.

(The full text of Hannis's apology can be read in the box attached)