A Northern Rivers man will soon be sentenced over 10 child abuse offences.
A Northern Rivers man will soon be sentenced over 10 child abuse offences. istock

Former Nazi prisoner found guilty of child rape offences

A FORMER prisoner-of-war will be sentenced for child sex offences after a court heard arguments on the relevance of his mental illness and dementia.

The 90-year-old Northern Rivers man appeared before Lismore District Court as Judge Wells heard sentencing submissions on Thursday.

The court heard the man had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and claustrophobia following military service, during which he was captured by Nazi forces.

He also suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

He will be sentenced for two counts of sexual intercourse with a person under 10 years, grooming a child under 14 years for an unlawful sexual activity, and seven counts of indecently assaulting a person under 16 years after being found guilty of the offences at a special hearing.

His barrister, Peter O'Connor, said he agreed in general with a range of written submissions put forward by the Crown prosecutor.

But they disagreed on the significance of the defendant's dementia, Mr O'Connor said.

He said the man's sentence should be determined in light of "whether or to what extent the Alzheimer's in particular may have had a role in his offending".

Judge Wells asked what evidence there was regarding his condition at the time of the offending, and Mr O'Connor said this information was "not specific" although an initial diagnosis came about in 2015.

It's understood the charges were laid in 2014 and the offences occurred about a decade ago.

"The evidence is clearly that it's a condition that occurs over a period of time that his condition would be expected to deteriorate," Mr O'Connor said.

He said his client had led a crime-free life for eight decades prior, but experienced "quite horrendous changes".

"It may be that it has been based on advancing age and not-so-obvious cognitive deficits which were developing," he said.

He said the defendant's age and various health issues should be considered in determining an appropriate sentence and that the man would have "much more difficulty" with time in prison compared to the average inmate.

The Crown prosecutor argued the man's dementia had not been shown to cause his offending.

"There simply was not evidence that (he) was suffering dementia at the time of the offences," he said.

He said there was "no suggestion" the man's cognitive impairment was enough to reduce his moral culpability at the time of the offences.

The court heard the man would be subject to an assessment from the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which is expected to advise the court of the most appropriate way for him to serve his sentence.

Judge Wells said while she was cognizant the families of the victim and defendant wanted the matter to be resolved, she had received a large amount of documents "late in the piece".

She reserved her judgment on sentencing to next Wednesday and the man remains on bail.