CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses child sexual abuse.
A man previously sentenced to 12 years’ jail for sexually abusing his daughter from the age of six has had more time added to his prison term.
Ned Baker Ashton (a pseudonym) had previously pleaded guilty to engaging in a relationship with a child under special care and was sentenced in February of this year in the ACT Supreme Court.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the length of his sentence, arguing its starting point of 16 years (which was then reduced to account for the guilty plea) was “manifestly too low”.
The panel of three appeal justices agreed that the original jail term was insufficient.
In her submissions on Wednesday (21 September), Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said the original jail term was “unjust” for such a “horrendous course of offending”.
“The offender repeatedly raped his young daughter over many years at a time when … he of all people ought to have been ensuring that he nurtured and protected her,” she said.
“Instead of doing that, he repeatedly traumatised her over a period of eight years and condemned her to a life of psychological suffering.”
Abuse against the young girl included indecent touching, which progressed to at least “76 instances” of penile rape when she would stay with her father, who was separated from her mother.
Chief Justice McCallum said the evidence showed Ashton had “pre-meditated” his offending and was aware it was wrong.
“The offender’s various accounts of the conduct of the victim in response to his increased depravity provide chilling evidence of the extent of his persistence, notwithstanding the fact that he well knew the seriousness of his conduct,” she said.
“The offender knew that his sexual assaults frequently made the victim cry … [he] persisted in raping his daughter every time she went to him under the family’s shared parenting arrangements.”
The evidence noted the offender had “a couple of frights along the way” where the girl’s school became concerned about her behaviour and when he was confronted by the mother in front of the victim when she was 11 or 12.
At this time, the victim denied anything had happened, and the offending continued for another 18 months.
In Justice Michael Elkaim’s reasonings, he noted Ashton’s “criminal acts were many”.
“The [DPP] says that the finding of objective seriousness when factored against a maximum penalty of 25 years should have produced a starting point well above 16 years,” he said.
Justice Elkaim said when the frequency and type of abuse were taken into account, there was “little argument” that the original sentence was “disproportionate”.
“The victim will suffer for the rest of her life with the mental impairment that must flow from such persistent offending, emphasised by the offender having been the victim’s father and the person to whom she should have been able to look to for care and protection,” he said.
“He provided the precise opposite.”
Justice Berna Collier also agreed.
As a result, Ashton has been re-sentenced to 15 years’ prison, to end on 8 July 2036. He will be eligible for parole on 8 November 2030.