21 Feb 2024

Young teenager groomed and abused by 24-year-old man

6:53 pm on 21 February 2024
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File photo. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The father of a 13-year-old girl who had a sexual relationship with a man she met at a skating rink has spoken of his devastation at not being able to protect his daughter from being groomed and abused.

The girl's father broke down in the Nelson District Court today and said he had spent countless evenings crying himself to sleep, feeling like he had failed as a parent.

"What has happened to my daughter will haunt me for the rest of my life."

The man - Kwan Loong Lee, 25 - was sentenced today to nine months home detention on two charges of sexual connection with a young person.

Lee, then 24 years old, met the 13-year-old girl at a skate rink in Nelson in 2022 and began a sexual relationship with her last May.

The pair exchanged more than 7000 text messages over a two-month period, and Lee told the victim in one of the messages that he was being "threatened of being reported to the police for paedophilia" because he was "dating a minor".

Lee went to the victim's home that night and had sex with her in his vehicle. The same happened again two weeks later.

She later told a school counsellor, who notified her parents.

She told Lee that her father wanted to go to the police and that he "better stay away from me and our house".

Five days later, Lee was arrested by police in a departure lounge at Auckland Airport, after he had checked in and was waiting to board a flight to China.

Her father said he had sought solace in alcohol to numb the pain, which had affected his ability to do his job.

"I cannot bear to be alone with my thoughts anymore, thinking about how he manipulated my 13-year-old daughter into believing she is in love with him and how to solve the problem without pushing my daughter away and ending up with her hating me, or even worse, running away with him."

He said despite bail conditions that Lee not contact his daughter, he had intercepted a phone call between the two and found out they were still seeing each other.

The girl's mother said her daughter's childhood and innocence had been lost, and that she had been taken advantage of sexually and emotionally.

"She believes that she is in love with him now and we are doing this to her, can you imagine what she is thinking of her parents who are putting the 'love of her life' before the courts."

Defence lawyer Jacqueline van Schalkwyk said Lee was deeply remorseful and had since gained insight into his offending.

"He fully understands what he did was wrong. It is not something he would want to repeat."

She said Lee had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder due to previous experiences and factors detailed in a psychologist report showed his decision-making abilities were impaired.

He had been assessed as having a high potential for rehabilitation and having a moderate to low risk of re-offending, so van Schalkwyk said registration on the Child Sex Offender register was not warranted.

Crown prosecutor Jeremy Cameron said the offending was predatory, pre-meditated and involved grooming the victim.

He said any discount for remorse should be tempered by the fact Lee was arrested trying to leave the country, five days after police had become involved.

"He was collared trying to do a runner, so now having been made to face the music he says he is remorseful and I think the court could legitimately be cautious in taking that too far."

He argued registration on the Child Sex Offender register was appropriate.

In sentencing, Judge Tony Zohrab said a victim impact statement from the teenage girl highlighted her youth and naivety and the extremely difficult position Lee, as an adult, had put her in by putting his own needs first.

"Because of her age, she wasn't old enough to be able to understand and cope with a relationship, no matter what she might think ... the law is there to protect young people such as her, from herself as well as from you."

Judge Zohrab said he had grave doubts about Lee's expression of remorse, given the length of time the relationship went on for before the offending, that he knew her age early on and that he had previously been in age-appropriate relationships.

He said it was abundantly clear to Lee that the victim was not of age to be able to consent.

"You raised with her you were threatened with being reported to the police for paedophilia and rather than that being something which caused you to pause and reflect on your actions, it led to two instances of sexual intercourse in a short space of time."

Judge Zohrab said home detention met the objectives of denunciation and deterrence and was appropriate given Lee was a first time offender with no prior history, but ordered that he be added to the Child Sex Offender register.

Lee was also ordered not to contact with the victim or associate with anyone under the age of 16, to complete the STOP programme for adults who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour and pay $3000 in reparation to the victim.