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‘A man would be jailed’ for same crime


A social worker sentenced to a fine and supervisio­n for indecent assault would have gone to a prison if she had been a man who did the same thing, a judge has said.

In the High Court at Wellington, via an audio-visual link to Napier, lawyer Roger Philip said Bessie Hanley was a youth justice social worker for Oranga Tamariki who often worked in the Hawke’s Bay courts. She has since left Oranga Tamariki.

Hanley, 36, was found guilty of indecent assault after an incident at a bar in July 2018 when she grabbed another woman’s genital area and muttered lewd suggestion­s to her.

In court yesterday, Justice Simon France said he wouldn’t repeat the words but they were quite clearly sexual.

He rejected a suggestion from Philip that Hanley’s offences were at the lower end of seriousnes­s for indecent assault. A man would have gone judge said.

Hanley had been to a function for social workers and some of the women had been drinking beforehand. Hanley arrived and did the rounds of hugging and kissing people before she indecently assaulted the victim.

Hanley denied it had happened until after she was convicted. She now said she had used the words to ‘‘shock’’ and was remorseful. She had written a letter to the victim but the judge said the letter seemed more about Hanley than the victim.

Hanley had a particular skill set and a conviction for indecent assault would stop her working, Philip said. Hanley appealed both conviction and the sentence of a fine of $1500 and 12 months’ supervisio­n. A drug and alcohol course was recommende­d.

She could be on firmer ground with the sentence appeal as Crown lawyer, Amanda Bryant, agreed that the rehabilita­tive aims of supervisio­n could be met with a sentence of six months, not a year.

The judge reserved his decision. to prison, the

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