Monday, October 08, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Christian camp leader jailed for child sex abuse

Neville Collins was sentenced to 11 years in prison for abusing six boys. Photo / Alan Gibson
A Christian former camp leader robbed boys of their innocence and grossly abused his position of trust when he sexually abused them over a 14-year period, a court has heard.

Neville Cyril Collins, 44, was yesterday sentenced to 11 years in prison for abuse of six boys between 1984 and 1998.

The victims were aged 11 to 16 when Collins abused them at Boys' Brigade and Exercise Novice Warrior camps in Auckland and other places in the North Island.

Trusted by the boys' parents and considered a "father figure" to some of the victims, he also abused them in their homes and his home.

Three of the victims were at the High Court at Rotorua for the sentencing and excerpts of their victim impact statements were read out.

"He took from me my innocence, my trust and confidence in all areas of my life," one victim wrote. "I have lived with this for 21 years - the pain, the guilt, feeling dirty, the anger and embarrassment - all this time."

Another victim said Collins had taken away his dignity.

"When he sodomised me, I simply had no say in the matter. It was forced on me. I was violated [and] the physical pain I endured was excruciating."

Collins was earlier found guilty of 37 charges, including six counts of sexual violation and 25 of indecent assault. Some of the charges were representative, meaning they covered at least one incident of abuse in a specified period.

The married father of two, who the court heard was a committed Christian, faced a maximum of 20 years in prison and wept as Justice Pamela Andrews delivered his sentence.

Earlier, Collins had written the judge a letter, saying he had been in denial about his actions but now accepted his offending and was remorseful. He offered his apologies to the victims and his family, and expressed a desire to change.

But Justice Andrews said the admission came at the "12th or 13th" hour and only after his victims had to testify in court and endure "the ultimate insult" of being called liars by Collins.

She said the harm caused by the abuse was significant, and Collins used his position as a leader and someone the boys looked up to for premeditated offending.

"You abused the trust imposed on you very grossly ... Yours was serious, prolonged, and predatory sexual offending involving six vulnerable victims."

The judge found no mitigating factors, although Collins' lawyer, Matthew Ward-Johnson, argued his client was of otherwise good character and had given much time to the community.

He said Collins had been sexually abused as a child and had not offended since 1998.

But Crown prosecutor Rob Ronayne said that coincided with the date the first victim went to police and, in the years since, Collins had continually denied any wrongdoing.

"He has secured his freedom for nine years, leaving the victims to ponder their blighted lives without any form of justice to them."

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