A former Victorian policeman who sexually abused his then stepdaughter will spend less than 14 months in jail, but his victim hopes a gesture by senior police will spare other abuse survivors the heartache she endured.
Robert Scott, 89, was on Monday jailed for two years, minus the fortnight he spent in quarantine when extradited from Britain, for abusing Kim Elzaibak in the 1970s when she was aged between three and nine. Scott was then a serving officer in country Victoria and in a relationship with Ms Elzaibak’s mother.
Kim Elzaibak outside court with Inspector Julian Horan, Detective Superintendent Paul O’Halloran and Deputy Commissioner Neil Patterson.Credit:Paul Jeffers
County Court judge Bill Stuart ordered 10 months of the sentence be suspended for 10 months, which means Scott has two more months to serve, having spent almost one year in jail since his extradition. He pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault.
Judge Stuart said Scott’s “heinous behaviour” had “catastrophic consequences” on Ms Elzaibak, who last week told the court the devastating impacts she had endured, from a stolen childhood to attempting suicide as an adult, and the compounding pain of a failed police investigation. But the judge was limited by the maximum penalties of five years for each charge as they stood in the 1970s.
Ms Elzaibak was comforted knowing Scott would have to serve more jail time, but was greatly moved by the presence at the hearing of some senior members of Victoria Police.
Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson, Inspector Julian Horan from the chief commissioner’s office and Detective Superintendent Paul O’Halloran, who knew of Ms Elzaibak’s case from his time as a senior officer in Wangaratta, were in the room to support her, and all hugged and apologised to her afterwards.
Ms Elzaibak reported Scott’s crimes to police in 2000. But because he had moved to England 15 years earlier, police believed there was no chance of interviewing him and dropped the investigation.
The case was reopened in 2013 through fresh information, but Scott was not charged until 2017, and he fought extradition, until he was flown to Melbourne last year. The British judge who approved the extradition condemned the investigative delays by Victorian police.
Ms Elzaibak said she had received her share of written apologies from police and the state government, but Monday’s gesture by the senior officers showed they recognised how the force had let her down through its inaction over the past 21 years. She hoped the judge’s remarks would help the officers learn what she and victims in other crimes went through.
“I don’t want apologies written, they’re baseless to me … them turning up today was action,” she said.
A previous court sketch of Robert Scott.Credit:Nine News
“By them changing their schedules at the drop of a hat to stand by me in court, to hear the allegations, to hear the courage and strength that the judge articulated that I had to do … that was huge for me.”
Ms Elzaibak once planned to sue Victoria Police, but now wants to channel her energy into improving the way investigating police deal with victims of sexual assaults. Her pledge came three days after Judge Stuart suggested her victim impact statement be shown and read to police officers in training, so they understand things from a victim’s perspective.
“Significant change is needed,” Ms Elzaibak said after the sentence. “I intend, along with Victoria Police, to continue working to make sure this never happens to any other victim.”
Judge Stuart said Scott betrayed the trust of his victim when she was young, vulnerable and considered him a father figure.
“She was but a child. You offended against her in her own home, a place where she was entitled to be and feel safe,” he said as Scott listened on a telephone from prison.
“You groomed her over years for your own sexual satisfaction.
“This offending did occur over years. It involved a gross breach of trust by you against her. You were responsible as an adult to protect her. You did the opposite.”
Judge Stuart said after Scott moved to the UK in 1985, he lied about his offending when confronted by family members, evaded responsibility and blamed his victim. He also used his alcohol abuse and human nature to justify his crimes.
The judge said alcohol might have “explained, but not excused” what Scott did, but accepted the old man pleaded guilty early when extradited to Melbourne, despite his earlier denials and attempts to stay in the UK. He also acknowledged his advanced age, health problems and post traumatic stress disorder from his time as a police officer and a soldier beforehand.
Scott was put on mute early in the hearing as Judge Stuart outlined the maximum penalties for the offences. “Oh good God … my life is finished then, sir,” the old man said.
Scott will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life and can apply to return to Britain once released, but is expected to spend his final days living in Melbourne.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can phone the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
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