6 Nov 2015

Former pastor jailed for sex offences

7:33 pm on 6 November 2015

Tonight marks the start of a jail sentence for a former Hutt Valley pastor found guilty of three sex offences against young girls.

Conikeli - Fijian pastor found guilty of molesting girls

Jone Conikeli, 42, was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Jone Conikeli, 42, was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today on one charge of assault with intent to commit sexual violation and two of indecently assaulting a child.

The first charge related to an incident in August last year when Conikeli forced his first victim, a 15-year-old, into a bathroom at his home, pulled down his trousers and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him.

The indecent assault charges involved an 11-year-old girl.

The pastor would approach her from behind during handball games and squeeze her breasts in a way which was concealed from other children playing the game.

On another occasion he touched the child's genitals as she lay sleeping with a large group of people in a room at his home.

Judge Bill Hastings said Conikeli relied on the respect shown to him as a pastor to conceal the offending, making it harder for the victims to reveal what had happened.

He said the girls were vulnerable, both because of their age and the second victim's vulnerability was even greater as she was asleep the second time Conikeli indecently assaulted her.

Defence lawyer Chris Nicholls said Conikeli continued to deny the offending and was likely to file an appeal against the convictions.

He said his client was a first-time offender and suggested a small discount could be granted for his previous good character.

Mr Nicholls said Conikeli was only found guilty of one of the serious charges he faced, the assault with intent to commit sexual violation, and the actual violence which occurred was of a low level.

He described his client as a somewhat needy and desperate person.

Neither of the victims were in court and neither of them filed a Victim Impact Statement.

However, one of their father's statements said: "For us we can only forgive the defendant for what he has done. My family and I have moved on as if nothing happened and I want it kept that way. No stress and no regrets."

Judge Hastings said he could not agree with those sentiments and Conikeli needed to be punished for the harm he'd done.

He said a probation report recorded that Conikeli continued to deny the offending, blaming it on a grudge held against him by some extended family members.

The judge said he could not give any credit for remorse because Conikeli had shown none.

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