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Trusted Blenheim gym coach jailed 15 years for sex offending against young girls

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By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission

A long-serving and well-known gymnastics coach in Blenheim has been sentenced to 15 years and nine months in prison for a raft of sexual offending against young girls.

Gregory Pask (Source: 1News)

Gregory Pask, 61, was sentenced for 20 charges of unlawful sexual connection with a female under 12 and 20 further charges for an indecent act on a girl under 12.

He was also sentenced on 20 charges of making or possessing objectionable publications, some of which he started downloading as early as 2001.

Around 20 members of the public were present in court for the sentencing with some visibly upset as details of the crimes were read out.

“For the last 25 years the defendant has been a gymnastics coach at Blenheim Gymnastics Club,” a summary of facts document from the court said.

Right up until his arrest last year, Pask had contact with about 180 children per week, most of them girls in the 7 to 11-year-old group.

He also took gymnasts to competitions out of Blenheim, with many of these trips involving him taking girls away without their parents.

The summary described the defendant as “a trusted member of the Blenheim community, to the point where several families have allowed their daughters to stay at his house during weekends and holidays”.

Most of the abuse occurred while he was caring for the children, at times while they were asleep, which he then recorded.

When police searched his home in September 2023, they uncovered multiple digital storage devices.

The summary said, “the defendant had arranged recordings of his offending into different folders”.

At the Blenheim District Court, Judge Garry Barkle said: “Police identified 1477 images and 99 videos made by you… this amounted to a total recording time of 103 minutes.”

This was on top of other objectionable material he had downloaded and saved on memory sticks.

“There are approximately 9000 images and videos, those do not include over 6600 other images from your laptop and work cell phone,” Barkle said.

He compared it to 20-30 full length movies.

Five victims have been identified, but police said there are more out there.

“In the course of this investigation police have attempted to identify all victims of the defendant’s offending, however this has not been possible because the defendant declined to assist police.” Eight charges relate to unknown victims.

While Pask pleaded guilty to 60 charges, 42 of these are representative charges which mean they relate to more than one offence.

Police have identified 256 total offences relating to the abuse of children.

‘The harm has been massive’

Some of those who were abused read statements in court today, as did parents of victims.

The content of what they shared is suppressed, but many cried as they spoke.

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber described the victim impact statements as “harrowing”.

“The harm has been massive and it will echo for years, for decades and in some cases probably for lifetimes,” Webber said

“The scale of the offending speaks for itself, it’s almost impossible to comprehend the scale of what Mr Pask has done.”

In January, Blenheim Gymnastics Club released a statement stating, “the club was shocked and appalled to learn of the offences committed by a person who occupied a position of trust in our community”.

“We wish to reassure members that the club is a safe place.”

Following Pask’s guilty plea in December, Detective Sergeant Ash Clarke from Marlborough CIB said police acknowledged his victims and the ordeal they had been through.

“While the man responsible for the offending has pleaded guilty, police understand that no conviction will ever take back what has happened.

“He was a well-known figure in the Blenheim community for many years and in continual contact with children and young people.”

Pask admitted to some of the offending, but not all.

‘A significant fall from grace’

He acknowledged he got enjoyment from his actions and that he needed help.

The summary said, “he claimed to have a great deal of affection for the children and families he offended against”.

Defence Lawyer Marcus Zintl said “Mr Pask is at a loss to explain why he committed the offending”.

“This has been a significant fall from grace, he was a pillar of the Blenheim gymnastics community, volunteer coach, nominated for local coach of the year and at one stage, and now he has to live with the guilt, shame and humiliation for the rest of his life.”

‘Should not be underestimated’

Judge Barkle, before sentencing Pask, described his offending as “utterly destructive”.

“The effects of your hideous conduct will be felt for a number of years and should not be underestimated,” he said.

“The level of harm you have caused, Mr Pask, is incalculable.”

Barkle went on to say victims and their families are now living lives they do not deserve, as a result.

“Your offending demonstrates a complex level of manipulative and secretive behaviour, over many years.”

Gymnastics NZ responds

In a statement, Gymnastics New Zealand said the case was “a horrible reminder” that this kind of offending could happen anywere.

Gymnastics NZ thanked the police for their work to convict Pask and “secure a sentence that ensures he no longer poses a threat to society”.

“As we have stated previously, our primary concern remains the wellbeing of the victims of these awful crimes – and working to ensure this cannot happen again.”

The national sports body said it and the Blenheim Gymnastics Club met with police and Oranga Tamariki to hear details of the offending and to ask what lessons could be learned to protect club members from sexual offenders who prey on children.

“We will be consulting child safeguarding experts to consider how this advice can be incorporated into the sport’s child safeguarding policies and practices, building on what is already in place,” the statement said.

“The offending that occurred in Blenheim is a horrible reminder that all sports and recreational activities that involve children under adult supervision are vulnerable to child safeguarding issues, including issues of serious criminality.

“It can happen anywhere – and all people who work or volunteer in the sector need to be vigilant and alert to these threats.”