A cult leader has been jailed for nearly a decade for repeatedly sexually abusing a girl who was forced to serve him.

ABC News, Australia/December 15, 2021

By Candice Prosser

Key points:

  • James Salerno, 76, was found guilty of six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse
  • He has been jailed for seven years and 11 months
  • Salerno will be eligible for release on parole in six years

James Gino Salerno, 76, often referred to as Taipan within the cult, was found guilty of six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse against a girl nearly two decades ago at a property in the Adelaide Hills.

The District Court heard Salerno was the "revered leader" of a group called the Ideal Human Environment and was treated like a "god".

The victim previously told the court she was made to feel like a "piece of meat purely for his pleasure" and would be punished if she did not serve him.

The court heard the victim was brainwashed, belittled and isolated and still feared the repercussions of reporting the abuse to police after leaving the cult.

The court heard Salerno began abusing the girl when she was 13 years old, after telling her that it was the role of the father to "teach a woman how to become a lady".

Judge Geraldine Davison said Salerno abused his position of trust and leadership by repeatedly abusing the girl.

"You used your position of trust to abuse [the victim] but also you abused the trust of her parents and the other family members," Judge Davison said.

"You obtained her silence by instilling fear in her and a belief that no one would believe her."

Judge Davison said the impact of the abuse was profound.

"You sexually and emotionally abused her for much of her childhood," Judge Davison said.

"You instilled fear in her and ensured she had become disengaged from her parents and those around her who may have been able to assist her.

"Your offending has had a profound impact on her, she is still suffering from ongoing physical, mental and emotional issues."

Judge Davison said she rejected a submission from Salerno's lawyers that his notoriety would make it harder for him to serve his time in person and also said she considered his various health conditions could be managed and treated within the prison system.

Salerno was sentenced as a serious repeat offender, which means he cannot receive leniency in his non-parole period.

Judge Davison said she would have sentenced Salerno to nine years' imprisonment, but after giving credit for time already served, she reduced the sentence to seven years, 11 months and 16 days.

She set a non-parole period of six years, one month and 28 days, which is four-fifths of the head sentence.

Salerno is appealing against his convictions.

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