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Rizalman guilty of indecent assault, nine months' home detention
Published:  Feb 4, 2016 12:57 AM
Updated: 5:57 AM

Former defence attaché Muhammad Rizalman Ismail has been sentenced to nine months’ home detention after being found guilty of indecently assaulting Wellington woman Tania Billingsley.

According to NZ Herald , the Wellington High Court heard submissions from both defence lawyer Dr Donald Stevens, QC, and Crown prosecutor Grant Burston.

The Crown had reportedly accepted that Rizalman was eligible for home detention. In New Zealand, home detention requires an offender to remain at an approved residence at all times and be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The defence, meanwhile, said the accused had written a letter of apology and offered to pay reparation. It also argued that Rizalman deserved a sentence less severe than home detention.

In delivering the judgment, Justice David Collins told Rizalman: "You terrorised Ms Billingsley. She was a young woman, alone in her room, who was entitled to feel safe and secure in her bedroom.

"I've carefully read Ms Billingsley's victim impact statement. Plainly, your actions terrified her," he said.

Justice Collins further said no woman should have to endure the terrifying circumstances experienced by Billingsley, when Rizalman had "breached the sanctity of her bedroom".

According to the report, Justice Collins had received and granted a request from Billingsley for her victim impact statement to be suppressed.

The judge also reportedly accepted that Rizalman had an exemplary record of service and said his family were "innocent victims" of his act because of the publicity surrounding the case.

However, despite Rizalman's letter of apology, Justice Collins did not give any time off from his sentence for remorse.

"When you were giving evidence before me, I was struck by your lack of insight into your offence and your lack of appreciation as to your conduct," the judge is quoted as saying.

After serving his sentence at an undisclosed property, to be rented by the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand, Rizalman will be deported to Malaysia.

Rizalman, 39, had pleaded guilty to indecent assault on Nov 30 last year, the morning his trial was due to begin in the High Court at Wellington after following Billingsley to her home on May 10, 2014.

MFAT report tomorrow

In a related matter, the NZ Herald also said a report on the decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to grant Rizalman immunity from prosecution would be released tomorrow.

Rizalman had invoked diplomatic immunity and returned to Malaysia two days after being charged with sexual offences.

However, his return to Malaysia triggered an outcry in New Zealand that was later attributed to miscommunication by Malaysian and New Zealand authorities.

A report on the decision to grant Rizalman immunity from prosecution was completed in December 2014, but NZ Herald said its contents have so far remained secret.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, confirmed with the local daily that the report on the ministry's internal processes would finally be made public tomorrow.

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