WARNING: Some readers may find this story distressing.
The former publican of the George Harcourt Inn may remain in jail for the next decade after he was sentenced for raping or violating two former partners.
When Justice John Burns jailed Joshua Robert Leemhuis for nine years and 10 months on Tuesday (17 August), he told the ACT Supreme Court the 36-year-old’s crimes involved an “egregious breach of trust” and there was “no doubt” he had caused lasting harm to the women.
“All women have the right to feel safe in their domestic relationships,” he said.
“The only reason you were able to commit these offences was because the victims trusted you as a person of good character.”
Leemhuis filmed himself repeatedly raping or sexually assaulting the first woman while she was unconscious. In one video he could be seen winking at the camera.
This woman’s mother discovered the recordings when, wanting to preserve family photos following the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, she was reviewing memory cards in her possession.
The mother later said her daughter “looked dead in the images”.
“Whatever may have been the cause of her unconsciousness, it is abundantly clear that you were aware of the fact that the victim was heavily unconscious and you appeared to demonstrate little, if any, concern that she may regain consciousness while you were committing these offences,” Justice Burns told Leemhuis.
The former publican also secretly took naked photos of the second woman before uploading them to an amateur pornography website and emailing them to another person.
The first former partner told the court she believed Leemhuis’s need to have full and total control over her was at the core of who he is.
“I was in our bed with the person who should have been protecting me. I should have been safe. Instead, I was raped and filmed,” she said.
Justice Burns said the second former partner had moved interstate because she was in constant fear for her safety and she was “mortified” photos of her had been uploaded to the internet.
He said Leemhuis’s offences were premeditated and involved degrading conduct, breaches of trust and, in the case of the first woman, a vulnerable victim due to her being unconscious.
Justice Burns said a pre-sentence report stated Leemhuis co-owned two licenced venues and was able to return to work there once released.
The report also stated he felt “disgusted” with his behaviour.
Clinical psychologist Dr Christopher Lennings said Leemhuis could also be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and problematic alcohol use in remission.
He believed that Leemhuis’s impulse control deteriorated over the years as depression, alcohol use, and an increasing paraphilic interest combined. He believed he met the criteria for voyeuristic paraphilia.
Justice Burns said Leemhuis accepted that while alcohol abuse contributed to his crimes, he had still decided to violate his former partners.
“While your moral compass may have been skewed, you were well aware that what you were doing was wrong,” Justice Burns said.
“As Dr Lennings observed, your conduct speaks of a desire to exercise control over the body of your victim.”
Leemhuis has remained behind bars since he was arrested on 17 June 2020.
While his head sentence expires in April 2030, he was given a non-parole period of five years and 10 months’ jail which means he is eligible to be released in April 2026.
He had pleaded guilty to 22 charges, including sexual intercourse without consent, committing acts of indecency without consent and non-consensually distributing an intimate image.
The two women gave their written consent for media to name the man who violated them.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support is also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.