Judge praised threesome rapist’s ‘bravery’
A Victorian judge has given a rapist praise for an act of bravery, but a victims' rights group says it's irrelevant.
Inside a courtroom filled with his mates, Shaun Bloomfield sat in the dock and listened to the story of his ocean rescue from five years ago.
The 24-year-old was told he was "brave and selfless" by Victorian County Court Judge Gerard Mullaly when he ran into the ocean at Port Fairy, on the Great Ocean Road, to rescue a man and his son.
Bloomfield, then 19, swam 300m to the pair and was later given a certificate of merit from the Royal Humane Society of Australasia.
Judge Mullaly said the act, committed two years before Bloomfield and his friend Luke Merryfull took turns raping another friend in a caravan in Victoria's west, was "no small matter" and was being "factored into sentencing".
Bloomfield, now a serious sex offender, was jailed for five years and eight months. It is not known how much his sentence was reduced because the judge deemed he had shown prior good character.
Judge Mullaly said the rape "stands in stark contrast to this earlier brave behaviour".
Bloomfield's lawyer, Fraser Cameron, told news.com.au the judge was correct to "consider any significant contributions made to the community by the offender" but admitted "this is the first time in 13 years I've seen it referred to explicitly in sentencing remarks".
"Can't say many, if any, of my clients have been able to call on something as significant as that in their favour," he said.
Mr Cameron said the rape, which took place at a 21st birthday party in 2016, was a "classic case of an otherwise good person doing a very bad thing".
But Carolyn Worth from the Centre Against Sexual Assault was disappointed when she heard the comments.
She told news.com.au that bravery and treating women with respect were two very different things.
"While I understand the judge taking a prior act of bravery into account in sentencing it is irrelevant in a sexual assault case.
"Only in Mills and Boon stories does bravery translate into chivalry. Rape is about power and a total disregard for women. You can be brave and still not treat women with respect.
The court yesterday heard the two men, both now 24, climbed into bed with a friend who had been drinking at the party in Balmoral. It was about 3am when they asked her if she wanted to have a threesome.
She rejected the proposal, saying "no" and "no way" before rolling over, wrapping herself in a blanked and using her elbows and hands to push the men away.
The pair "wedged" their friend between them before Merryfull raped her. When he was finished, he told Bloomfield: "She's all yours now."
Bloomfield then raped the 21-year-old only stopped when the victim "pushed you in the chest, causing you to wake up to yourself", Judge Mullaly said.
Merryfull was jailed for four years and 10 months and will serve a minimum of two years and 10 months. He and Bloomfield both smiled and gave thumbs up to their supporters as they were led away.
Judge Mullaly said the crimes were "opportunistic, serious and selfish".
"That is shameful. The devastating impact on (the victim) is still resonating," he said.
The victim, who cannot be named, was enjoying what Judge Mullaly said was her right to drink alcohol and enjoy a 21st birthday party in Balmoral, in western Victoria.
The court heard she has since moved interstate and fears returning to Victoria. She can't study, she can't go outside without being accompanied by somebody she trusts. She can't work.
In a victim impact statement tendered to court, she said she was a shadow of her former self.
"The last three years of my life have been the worst I've had to go through," she said. "Two friends I trusted … this crime will always have an impact on my life."
The court heard she was once very active and loved sports but "she can't do those things without significant stress now".
She has seen a therapist fortnightly for three years and hopes to overcome the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety she suffers from.
Her mother said she was "once the life of the party" but she has lost her spirit.