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Sex offender fights child abuse sentence

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Genevieve Gannon

A community leader, Order of Australia recipient and father of three says his 20-month jail term for the sex abuse of a 13-year-old boy who trusted him is too harsh.

Australian Arabic Council founder Joseph Wakim, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual penetration of a child, but now wants the Victorian Court of Appeal to reduce his sentence.

Barrister Ian Hill QC argued the sentencing judge "punished the applicant twice" by giving weight to the breach of trust Wakim committed, but not taking into account his previous good character.

"Twenty months is overly punitive," he said.

Prosecutor Diana Piekusis agreed there was an error in the wording of the sentence, but said the court should not reduce the Wakim's punishment.

"When assessing the breach of trust it must be considered how he came to be able to offend," Ms Piekusis said.

Wakim's reputation and standing was integral to the deep relationship of trust he was able to develop with the victim's family, she argued.

The boy looked to Wakim as a father figure, and Wakim knew the boy was being bullied at school, and having suicidal thoughts, the court heard.

On Christmas Day last year he gave the boy a massage while alone with the him in his room.

Wakim had massaged the boy before - but on this occasion it progressed to a sex act.

The boy has now told his mother he hates Christmas and wishes they could skip it every year, the Victorian County Court heard during the pre-sentence hearing.

"The effect was profound," Ms Piekusis told the court of appeal.

The court heard Wakim has expressed remorse and disgust at his own behaviour, and has began treatment, but the crown said this does not displace the need to punish him.

In addition to the jail time, the NSW resident was ordered to perform 300 hours of unpaid work in Victoria which, Mr Hill said, means he will be unable to immediately return to his daughters when he is released.

Mr Hill also submitted Wakim had endured extra punishment.

After he was charged for what the sentencing judge called "an evil and inconceivable lapse of self-control", Wakim returned his Order of Australia medal and resigned from his position on various high profile committees.

He was sacked from his job of 17 years.

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.

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