Tennis coach wants shorter jail time for abusing girl

·3-min read
Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS

A jail sentence imposed for the "depraved" sexual abuse of a tennis pupil should be shortened because her coach had mental health issues, a court has been told.

Ray Younan, 77, pleaded guilty to 17 charges for the abuse of the girl as he escorted her around rural NSW and at his training facility in northern Sydney in 2019.

He touched the girl during massage sessions with oil and cream, gave her naked body massages and kissed her, telling her that this was necessary so she could play tennis well and prevent injury.

In August last year, he was given a maximum sentence of six years and six months with a non-parole period of four years and three months, expiring on November 3, 2026.

"The offender deliberately chose to offend time and time again in the way that he did for the depraved purpose of sexual gratification," said District Court Judge Kara Shead at the time.

He has since appealed this sentence as "manifestly excessive", claiming that the judge erred by failing to reduce his sentence by taking his mental health into account.

A traumatic brain injury as a child left Younan with intellectual difficulties. He also suffered a hypoxic brain injury after a cardiac arrest in 2018 left him dead for 10 minutes before he was revived.

Because the coach was mentally "impaired", the need to deter him specifically from committing these types of crimes again was reduced, his barrister Anthony Parsons told a panel of three appeals judges on Wednesday.

Not only had his mental state been connected to the sexual abuse but Younan was unlikely to re-offend, had reduced moral culpability and had been assaulted while in prison because of his crimes, the court heard.

"It would be a very unusual case where specific deterrence would not be reduced bearing in mind those particular features," said Mr Parsons.

Crown prosecutor Michelle Swift said the sentencing process was "clearly a difficult and complicated one" but urged the appeals judges to uphold Judge Stead's original decision.

The judge had considered the tennis coach's mental state and found that his moral culpability was "somewhat reduced," Ms Swift said.

The nature of the offending warranted the sentence however, she continued.

Younan went to great lengths to get himself alone with the victim, making up excuses why he should share a hotel room with her while on tour and sending other pupils off on errands or to run laps.

The coach also threatened his victim and abused her trust, saying she needed to pay him back for the massages by stroking his genitalia, and that if she did not do so he would cease coaching her and she would be unable to play tennis.

"This is serious offending that goes over a period of six months where there is significant abuse of authority," Ms Swift said.

The abuse was uncovered after another student stumbled across the pair naked in a hotel room and called his parents. An investigation by police in the child abuse unit led to Younan's arrest.

The appeals judges reserved their decision.

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