Note: much of the content of this article surrounding paedophile, Trevor Hall, is sourced/extracted from the work of NZ Channel 3 journalist Rachel Tiffen. With thanks to Rachel for her tenacity and professionalism in coverage of the case. Links to her stories can be found at base of page.
As an update, as of October 2014, Trevor Hall was charged with further child sexual abuse offenses after being given home detention for the charges outlined in this story. He is now remanded in custody awaiting sentencing for 11sexual assaults against 3 children. Hopefully, this time the New Zealand courts send the appropriate message and puts this dog away for the rest of his life. See story here http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/trevor-hall-victim-found-it-damn-hard-to-come-forward-2014080117 …. Anyway….
There’s nothing more offensive and disheartening for a survivor of child sexual abuse then to pick up a newspaper and read about yet another paedophile that is convicted of sexual crimes against a child only to be handed a sentence that is grossly inadequate and does little to deter further offences against children.
Take, for example, a recent case in New Zealand, where Salvation Army volunteer and recidivist pedophile, Trevor Hall received a whopping one-year home detention and was fined $2000 after pleading guilty to 4 charges of indecent assault against a seven-year-old girl. $2000 measly New Zealand dollars ($1,600.00 Australian) and a year’s home detention – not bad! A young girls innocence stolen, a life in ruins, years of counseling and god knows what else for $2000 and a grossly inadequate slap on the hand. Where’s the deterrent? Where’s the justice? What’s the message? How does this protect children?
Trevor Hall’s Modus Operandi was textbook paedophilia. Join an organisation – the Salvation Army – that offers a veil of respectability and enables access to children, choose a vulnerable target, in this case a lonely single mother and her young daughter who was in need of a father figure, gain their trust and worm your way into their home and lives and exploit them.
The girl called him “Poppa” and the mother trusted him so much that she encouraged him to move into a nearby apartment.
It wasn’t long until the warning bells sounded.
“She kept asking me if she was sexy, and I asked where she got that word from and she told me that Trevor called her sexy,” said the mother. “And she kept asking me if her private parts were beautiful.”
She went to police and Hall was arrested.
The victim’s mother is devastated. “He took her innocence away in such a horrible manner,” she told the court. As a result of this my daughter has started to soil herself, she has nightmares every night and wakes screaming and cries a lot.”
Hall showed no remorse for his crimes with Crown prosecutor Rob Ronayne noting, “What must be of great concern to the court is the fact that this man has tended to the writer of the report to minimise his behaviour by suggesting it was only a bit of a game.” That game included exposing himself, masturbating in front of the girl and inducing her to touch his penis. He also induced her to expose herself.
Hall also blamed his crimes on bad health. “Quite how emphysema could cause somebody to sexually abuse a young girl is beyond me,” responded Crown Prosecutor Rob Ronayne.
However, for Hall, emphysema proved to be his saviour. The 60-year-old claimed his health had worsened since being charged, while his lawyer argued, “because of Hall’s advanced emphysema a sentence of imprisonment would be “disproportionately severe”. The judge agreed and sent him home stating at sentencing, “I consider that a sentence of [12 months] home detention will bring you to account but perhaps more importantly it will enable a programme of rehabilitation to be put in place.” But of course… No doubt!! The court had heard how Hall was incapable of leaving home anyway. He can walk ten metres on the level, and can manage six steps before suffering. Thus, in effect, his sentence would mean business as usual. I.e. Hall will remain supported by a taxpayer funded pension and still be able to eat, drink and smoke whenever he likes. That ought to teach him!
Not to be too hard on Judge Rollo. One year home detention or six months incarceration, under New Zealand law, a country with a horrendous child abuse problem, is the maximum any judge could hand down.
The issue for sentencing is rating the crime to be sentenced against other sentences handed down for the same offence, taking into account any mitigating or aggravating factors. In this case the indecent assault was a minor one on the scale because there was no actual physical contact. Hall did not touch the girl, but he was in the process of inducing her to touch him. The police summary presents an ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ scenario, and because of this his sentence was already decided in some respects by other paedophiles who have already been convicted and sentenced for similar crimes through the NZ Courts.
If the judge does not adhere to these already established sentencing guidelines his sentence is open to appeal by the defence. This is all canvassed by the judge in his sentencing remarks which set the scene for Hall in the context of his offending compared with other indecent assaults, and shows the judge’s thinking on what aspects he is giving weight to etc.
Thus, in simple terms, on the scale of previous indecent assaults before the court, Hall’s offenses were legally considered minor and would attract a jail sentence of only six months, or home detention of only one year.
Putting this into context, in the same country, someone convicted of a victimless crime such as simple possession of marijuana could face the same maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment. And if someone were convicted of a property crime such as car theft or burglary they could receive up to seven years imprisonment .
What this really means is that New Zealand places more importance on property than children/child welfare, while a cannabis user is equally as evil as a paedophile… Go figure!
To make matters worse, Hall has previously been convicted in Australia on 10 charges of indecent acts against children – his victims on this occasion being his four-year-old grandniece and nine-year-old grandnephew. The sentencing Judge at the time stating, Hall’s crimes were “one of the worst breaches of trust” he’d ever encountered and the siblings had suffered “a combination of adverse impact and nervous and mental shock”. This said, for such a shocking crime he then handed Hall a lenient 3 year 6 month sentence, of which he served 17 months before being deported to New Zealand.
Obviously, the 17 months Hall had served in Australia hadn’t inspired him to change his depraved ways. Upon his return to New Zealand, Hall was able to volunteer with the Whakatane Salvation Army and begin targeting new victims. What you ask? The Salvo’s deal with some of societies most vulnerable! Don’t they run background checks? As it turns out no… not necessarily! The organisation police-checks anyone who works with children, but Hall taught an adult Bible class and worked in the second hand shop, so wasn’t vetted. The Salvation Army now admits that’s not good enough. Cold comfort for his seven-year-old victim! They also admitted that some of the staff had come to know of Hall’s past convictions but had failed to report it. That’s right! Can you believe it? This is where things go from the perverse and twisted to the criminally culpable. “In the past few weeks as we’ve investigated this, we have discovered that some people did have knowledge, but unfortunately nobody came forward.” Salvation Army spokesperson Lynette Hutson is quoted.
To add insult to injury, when Hall was charged with indecent assault, incredibly, members of the Salvation Army took his side, even after Hall had admitted his crime. Some actually accused the victim of lying and even of “doing it for the money”. Many of them turned their backs on the mother and child. “All the play dates with the other Salvation Army children stopped for my daughter. She couldn’t understand why,” said the mother. “When my daughter got told that he’d been found guilty, first she started crying and then she said, ‘mummy, mummy, does that mean the Salvation Army won’t call me a liar any more?’”
The mother says she’s now over crying and she believes that the Whakatane branch of the Salvation Army has failed to protect children associated with them, and wants to know how many other young people have to be hurt. “I don’t want an apology from them. I want them not to use any more little girls or little boys who have been sexually assaulted as a sacrifice to try and keep the Salvation Army name pristine”, she said.
On the upside, Trevor Hall’s legal troubles may be far from over. More victims have already come forward and police are investigating. Tragically, some of the victims had come forward before. More tragically, had authorities done their jobs, and had not so many system failures occurred, a child would have been protected from paedophile Trevor Hall. One complainant went to the police in 2005 after her niece and nephew told stories about Hall’s behaviour while babysitting them when she was in hospital. The victims were interviewed by a specialist Child Youth and Family (CYF) team and police but after being questioned they heard nothing more. Police now admit they may have botched it.
In another significant breakthrough, a male family member has come forward alleging that Hall had sexually abused him as a child over 15 years ago. Tragically, he too reported the abuse when it first occurred. His mother had gone to police with the story, insisting that Hall be charged, but in what now appears to be typically NZ form, police dropped the ball. True to MO, several years later, Hall was arrested in Australia after sexually assaulting other young family members – his grandniece and grandnephew. Arguably, three, maybe more, children were sexually abused as a result of New Zealand’s grossly inadequate child protection policies. Arguably, the very mechanisms that are supposed to protect children resulted in anything but. This extends to today and a NZ judge who feels that a serial child sex offender should be shown leniency because of ill health and a ‘justice system’ (and I use this term loosely) that places more importance on the safety of property than children … to hell with victims.
Links to media coverage by Rachel Tiffen (Channel 3 News, NZ)