WARNING: THIS REPORT CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING CONTENT
A Northland mum has been jailed for almost 10 years for sexually abusing her own daughter - bribing the 5-year-old with chocolate and lollies to take part in sex with her and her boyfriend.
In court the woman tried to blame her own childhood abuse and "abandonment issues" - saying she had feared the man would leave her if she did not comply with his sexual requests.
But she was slammed by the judge, who said her offending was "appalling", "inexplicable" and "ugly".
The woman has been granted permanent name suppression to protect her daughter - who is now in the care of another family and cannot legally be identified.
The Herald has been following the case for more than a year and can finally report the details, described in court as "dreadful".
The woman pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, and one charge of publication of an intimate visual recording.
She was sentenced in the Whangarei District Court last week by Judge Duncan Harvey.
Her boyfriend was jailed in December after admitting a charge of unlawful sexual connection.
The repeat offending took place between October 2017 and April 2018 when the little girl was 5.
The first attack happened when the woman and her daughter were at home together.
The woman was messaging her boyfriend - who was also charged and convicted for his part in the abuse - and the pair were discussing their sexual fantasies via social media.
They spoke specifically about "incestuous sexual relationships" and the woman agreed to sexually abuse her daughter.
She undressed the child, violated her and used her cellphone to photograph what she was doing.
She sent that photograph to her boyfriend.
The second attack happened when the woman was staying with her boyfriend.
The child was asleep on the couch and the couple were having sex on a nearby bed.
The woman picked up her daughter, carried her to the bed and undressed her.
"She tried to stop you, but you simply reassured her that everything was okay," Judge Harvey said at sentencing.
The couple then continued to have sex as the woman violated the little girl.
"[She] tried to push [you] away but you persisted," said Judge Harvey.
"You continued with this behaviour. You then took her back to the couch to sleep."
On another occasion the couple were having sex and the little girl walked into their bedroom.
The mother asked the child to perform a sex act on her boyfriend.
"You promised her a treat if she would do so," Judge Harvey revealed.
"You then showed her how to perform. You then guided her."
The girl did as she was shown for a short time before leaving the room.
Later her mother asked her if she was okay.
During the last incident the little girl again walked into the bedroom while her mother and the boyfriend were engaged in sexual activity.
The child was told to use a sex toy on her mother.
"You told her that she would be given chocolate and lollies if she obeyed … you instructed her … you demonstrated to her what you wanted her to do," said Judge Harvey.
The child again obeyed and then left the bedroom "without saying anything".
At sentencing Judge Harvey said the offending "simply could not be tolerated".
A pre-sentence report outlined the woman's "explanation" for the offence.
She said she had "suffered greatly over the years because of the trauma and abuse" that she herself had experienced as a child.
That abuse resulted in "abandonment issues" and a lack of self confidence.
"It is very clear that because of what happened to you … and as the facts of this case show, you are prepared to do almost anything to avoid being left alone," said Judge Harvey.
"Indeed, your explanation for this appalling offending was that you were frightened that if you did not comply, he would end the relationship.
"You yourself have suffered from sexual abuse from a young age. Looking back you must recognise how that made you feel?
"The face that you would then subject your own daughter to similar type of abuse is extraordinarily difficult to understand."
The woman expressed remorse but there were a number of factors that aggravated the offending, including premeditation and planning and the vulnerability of the child.
"This was not spontaneous behaviour and it was not a one-off incident," Judge Harvey told the woman.
"It is apparent that you and (the man) had discussed what you were going to do with your daughter and you then followed through with those plans.
"It is difficult to imagine a more vulnerable victim than a 5-year-old girl being preyed on by her mother."
Judge Harvey said it was "impossible" to imagine a greater breach of trust than in this case.
"Your daughter was 5 years old, she was preyed upon and became a sexual plaything for the enjoyment of (the man) and, I suspect, yourself," he stated.
"I accept that she was only 5 years old but I have no doubt that she will remember what happened, just as you remember what happened to you when you were 5.
"This little girl is going to grow up remembering these ugly images.
"As she gets older, she will realise the full significance of what you did to her and what you made her do ... this behaviour is going to have lasting consequences for her.
The judge said the offending was "significant" and exacerbated because there were two offenders.
"Worse was the sending of that intimate visual recording," he said.
"How you could photograph what you were doing to your daughter and then send that photograph to (your boyfriend) is almost beyond comprehension."
He said it was "absolutely essential" to impose a sentence that could "truly be described as a deterrent".
"It goes without saying that this is very serious offending," he said.
Judge Harvey set a starting point of 14 years in prison for the woman, but gave her "absolutely minimal" discounts for her own childhood abuse.
"I am satisfied that there is a causal link between what happened to you as a child and your offending," he told the woman.
"I am not for one moment saying that it condones your behaviour, but it does assist to explain the otherwise inexplicable.
"I am prepared to allow a discount of 10 per cent."
Judge Harvey sentenced the woman to a total of nine years and one month in prison.
He set a minimum term of imprisonment of four years and six months meaning she is not eligible for parole until after that time is served.
In his final remarks he described the abuse of the girl as "appalling".
"Even taking into account your background - you must have known what you did to your daughter was wrong," he said.
"When you did what you did to your daughter, you were doing it for a purpose - namely to keep your boyfriend happy.
"In other words, you put your happiness above your daughter's innocence and safety."
He said it was crucial the woman was held properly accountable for the "dreadful" harm she had done to the girl.
"And to deter not just you, but anyone else from committing the same or similar offences," he said.
Northland police child protection and adult sexual assault co-ordinator Detective Senior Sergeant Geoff McCarthy acknowledged the sentence.
"This was a disturbing case involving premeditated and calculated sexual offending on a young person," he said.
"The victim in this matter was extremely vulnerable and I am appalled at the complete abuse of trust and the scale of sexual abuse."
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
- Text 4334 and they will respond
- Email [email protected]
- Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/for an online chat
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.
Are you worried about the safety of a child?
Or, contact Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children on 0508 326 459 for advice or click here to visit the agency's website for more information.