7 November 2022

Neil Duncan sentenced to five years' jail over child-sex crimes in Bega, Snowy Mountains

| Albert McKnight
Start the conversation
couple at lake

CONTENT WARNING: This story addresses childhood sexual abuse.

A horse rider who used to have strong links to pony clubs has been sentenced to a total of five years’ jail for sexually touching three young girls, with the abuse of two of the girls happening when they were at isolated campsites in a national park.

At the end of a trial, a jury found Neil Duncan had sexually touched the girls when they were aged between 10 and 16 in the Bega Valley and the Snowy Mountains in 2019.

While he was taken into custody on Friday (4 November), Judge Robyn Tupman told the NSW District Court he had to serve two and a half years as a non-parole period, which means he will be released in May 2025.

Duncan was 64 years old and living in Bega when he went on several camping trips into the Kosciuszko National Park with different groups, including two of the girls on separate trips.

When at their campsites, he arranged his swag so he was sleeping next to the girls’ and after everyone went to sleep, he reached over and sexually touched them. This happened several times on different occasions.

One of the girls said when it happened she told Duncan she was uncomfortable and he replied, “I don’t bite”.

The girl claimed that the next day, Duncan told her, “What happens in the bush, stays in the bush” as well as, “You don’t need to tell your mum”.

Judge Tupman said there had been a dispute over the meaning of these comments in the trial, with one of Duncan’s friends saying they were not meant to be sinister.

The girl also said she started crying during another incident and told Duncan, “Please stop, I don’t like this”.

READ ALSO Queanbeyan council sued over alleged racial discrimination against employee

When it came to the last girl, the youngest, he first sexually touched her when giving her a hug in Bega. The second time he touched her, she said she told him to stop two or three times, but he replied, “It’ll be all right”.

Judge Tupman said each of the girls felt betrayed by Duncan and two had made statements suggesting they had internalised blame, but she said they had to be discouraged from thinking that way.

“Nothing here is their fault. The only fault here lives at the feet of the offender,” she said.

She said when it came to the offences in the national park, they occurred in places of isolation and the survivors were away from home with no phone reception.

But she also said there was no evidence the now-67-year-old had “engineered” getting the girls to the national park so he could commit his crimes, and she found all his offences to be opportunistic.

During sentencing, Judge Tupman blasted the “incessant” media coverage of the case, saying some reports had been inaccurate, sensational or went far beyond what was appropriate.

For instance, she said one article called Duncan a “pony club prowler” and claimed he had breached his bail conditions. But she said he hadn’t breached his bail and none of his offences had any direct connection to any pony club.

READ ALSO Samuel Doolin sentenced to three years’ jail over police siege in Cobargo

Judge Tupman said Duncan had no other convictions on his record, aside from unrelated firearm offences that stemmed from his arrest over these sexual touching charges in November 2020.

The court heard he had retired from his involvement in a goat abattoir and moved to Bega in 2012, where he lived at the time of the offences. In 2021, he moved to the Tamworth area.

In June 2022, a jury had found Duncan guilty of eight counts of intentionally sexually touching a child between the ages of 10 and 16 after a trial in the Queanbeyan District Court.

While his bail was continued after the verdicts were delivered, an attempt to revoke it failed in the NSW Supreme Court in July due to his health issues.

His sentencing was delayed in August because of his cancer treatment, then it was again delayed in October as he was not well enough to travel to court.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900, Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. In an emergency call triple zero.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.