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Outrage over professor's sentence for indecent assault of 82-year-old woman

A university professor kept teaching for five months after he sexually assaulted an 82-year-old woman at a rest home.

Name suppression for Grant Hannis, who was a Journalism professor at Massey University in Wellington, lapsed at midnight.

He was sentenced yesterday to eight months' home detention for indecently assaulting the elderly woman.

Hannis, 55, was at a rest home in May last year when he approached the victim, who was at the home after suffering a stroke.

Hannis followed the victim to her bedroom where he shut the door and began kissing and touching her, despite her attempts to push him away.

He was disturbed by a staff member who walked in and then left to get a manager. 

However, Hannis continued to touch the victim again, putting his hand down her underwear and exposing himself.

Massey University says Hannis had worked at the university for 16 years and he told no one at Massey he was being prosecuted.

He requested retirement in October and asked for no farewell function.

"By the time university staff became aware, he was no longer teaching," Massey said.

"Staff then ensured that any potential contact with students remaining through social media or the university's online teaching platform were severed. An investigation of his personnel record showed nothing to suggest any inappropriate behaviour towards students or staff."

Massey said colleagues and students would be appalled and horrified at what he had done.

The victim's daughter read a victim impact statement during sentencing in court, saying her mother's health has severely deteriorated, and she has had several falls and now needs a wheelchair.

She said her mother had "slowly drifted away" and "sadness enveloped her body" with the bright spark in her eye gone.

"The accused made a choice, a choice to take advantage of a kind, caring, and vulnerable woman. Our mother has inadvertently become part of the #MeToo movement," she said.

Hannis also made a statement where he apologised to the victim and her family.

He said he was mentally unwell when he offended, and was affected by the pressures of work and family problems.

In the Wellington District Court, Judge Stephen Harrop told Hannis: "You've had a very substantial fall from grace. And the effects from that will be ongoing. And I accept that publication of your name will add to that."

Grey Power National President Mac Welch says damage to reputation being a factor in reducing Hannis' sentence is "sick".

"It's nonsense. He's given him time off because your reputation's going to be damaged. I mean, how sick is that?" Mr Welch said.

"I think a custodial sentence was the only fair thing to show that we're serious about this sort of offending.

"It's shocking an 82-year-old woman entrusted into the care of a rest home where she thinks she's going to be safe and looked after, where the family thinks she's going to be safe and looked after, and then this sort of thing occurs." 

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The incident has shocked Grey Power and the professor's former employer, Massey University. Source: 1 NEWS