Step-grandfather loses rape appeal

A BUNDABERG man who told his step-granddaughter "open your legs for Poppy" before raping her, has failed in an appeal of his jail sentence.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, systematically sexually abused the Gin Gin girl from the time she was as young as six until she was 14.

A Bundaberg jury this year found him guilty of rape, maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child and aggravated indecent treatment.

He was sentenced to five and a half years jail. He appealed the term.

Documents released by the Court of Appeal yesterday revealed the man would repeatedly fondle the girl's genitals under the guise of "hugging" time during family holidays to the Gold Coast.

During the trial the girl, now aged 17, recalled the man she knew as "Poppy" making her get into bed with him and placing his hands in her shorts.

"I remember him saying 'can you open your legs for Pop? Open your legs for Poppy', the girl told the court

"And then I just let it happen.

"He didn't get that far because I was young. He was trying to do it. It hurt."

While the man admitted to having an affectionate and playful relationship with the girl he repeatedly denied any sexual abuse.

In a phone recording played in court however, he could be heard apologising to the girl.

Asked by the girl "Why did you do it?" the man replied "I don't know darling. I've apologised for what I've done and I can't do anything about it. I can't take it back".

The man's legal team asked the Court of Appeal to, among other things, quash the rape conviction on the grounds it was "unreasonable" for the jury to accept penetration had occurred based on the evidence.

It was also argued the circumstance of aggravation, being that the girl was in her step-grandfather's care when the abuse took place, was unjust as other relatives were in the home at the time.

Justice Phillip Morrison however found the jury could have been satisfied penetration had occurred based on the description of the pain the girl had felt as an undeveloped child and her use of the term "fingering".

Describing the recorded phone call between the victim and her abuser as a "powerful piece of evidence", Justice Morrison said the man's responses were "entirely inconsistent with the defence case that there was never any inappropriate sexual touching".

He said the "very presence" of the man in the home, regardless of who else was there meant "his responsibility extended to protecting the complainant from harm".

The appeal was dismissed.

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