7 May 2015

Masseur jailed for sexual assaults

5:17 pm on 7 May 2015

A Christchurch masseur guilty of sexually assaulting three of his female clients was sentenced to 21 months in prison at the Christchurch District Court this afternoon.

Zhang at sentencing

Cunbin Zhang at sentencing Photo: RNZ / Patrick Phelps

Cunbin Zhang, 61, was found guilty in June last year on fourteen counts of sexual assault on three women over the age of sixteen.

Judge Stephen O'Driscoll spoke to Zhang through a translator to deliver the sentence while Zhang continued to deny the charges.

Zhang had a traditional Chinese massage practice, and three of the women to whom he gave massages spoke out about the assaults.

Judge O'Driscoll told the court about the details of the offending, including Zhang massaging the womens' breasts, upper thighs, and pubic areas.

"The women feel angry they didn't resist at the time, and now feel embarrassed, suspicious, and distrustful towards others." said Judge O'Driscoll.

"The victims placed trust in you, and that trust was breached. They were vulnerable, they had taken off their clothes, they were in the massage area." said Judge O'Driscoll.

They ere entitled to dignity and respect, to get what they came for, no more, no less, he said.

When handing down the sentence Judge O'Drisoll focused on the case's aggravating factors, such as the breach of trust, the fact there were three victims, and the continued denial of the charges along with the lack of apology.

"For what it's worth, I have heard victims' evidence, and found it to be honest, reliable, compelling. The jury also found it to be honest and reliable." said the judge.

The Crown suggested a starting point of four years in prison, whereas the defence suggested up to two years, and pushed for home detention.

Judge O'Driscoll settled on a starting point of two and a half years, but took into account Zhang's lack of prior convictions in New Zealand or China, that he has already spent two months in custody, and a great deal of time in heavily restricted bail, his health issues, which could worsen in prison, and the difficulties in prison caused by language and cultural barriers.

Zhang was sentenced to 21 months in custody, with the nine months off the starting point for the above reasons.

Zhang was placed in custody, rather than home detention, due to his lack of acceptance and remorse.

His age, and denial, meant prospects of rehabilitation were low, said Judge O'Driscoll.