A former couple who preyed upon and “emotionally manipulated” underage employees at their family-owned bakery in regional South Australia has been jailed for child sex crimes, which caused “irreparable” damage to the victims.

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The man and the woman, who cannot be identified to protect the identity of the three victims, were found guilty of having sex with one underage employee while the duo operated the bakery and lived in a “cult-like” situation.

The man was found guilty of having sex with a second underage employee, and also indecently assaulted an 18-year-old female employee.

In sentencing the former married couple — who were labelled by one of their victims as “monsters” — District Court Judge Emily Telfer said the pair had “isolated” and “alienated” the victims from their families “very deliberately” in the 1980s.

She said the jury’s verdict, handed down in December, had “exposed each of your vile crimes”.

“You preyed [on one of the victim’s] insecurities and you made her feel like she had a special place in your family,” Judge Telfer said.

The former couple’s offending occurred in regional South Australia in the 1980s.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

She said the husband had “deliberately created a sexualised environment at the bakery”.

“You used your authority in the environment to create a sexually charged atmosphere which enabled you to groom and eventually sexually abuse [two of the victims],” Judge Telfer said.

The man, now aged 69, was declared a serious repeat offender and jailed for 14 years with a non-parole period of 11 years.

His former wife, aged 68, was jailed for eight years with a non-parole period of four years.

Both sentences will be backdated to December, when each was taken into custody.

Judge Telfer said the man, who had several children with his former wife, had gone on to father children with two of the victims.

She said the man’s offending was so blatant, he abused the victims in front of other staff at the bakery — including an “attack” on one of the victims.

“Your confidence to behave in that way … is breathtaking,” she said.

“You believed you could simply behave as you pleased in the bakery without consequence.”

Victims suffered ‘irreparable’ damage

In victim impact statements read to the court at an earlier hearing, the now-adult victims told the court how they felt “lost, trapped and helpless”, as well as “violated, self-conscious and unworthy of being loved”.

“It’s your turn to cry yourself to sleep every night, it’s your turn,” one of the victims said.

“You’re both monsters.”

Judge Telfer said the damage and long-term trauma inflicted on the victims was “irreparable” and that both of the underage victims “remained under [the man’s] influence” after they reached the age of consent.

She said the man had told one of the victims she was his “endless love” on her 16th birthday, and began sexually assaulting her soon after.

Judge Telfer said the man did not accept the jury’s verdicts and “continues to tell lies” about the victims, while the woman — who initially ignored, then aided, abetted and participated in the abuse — accepted the jury’s verdicts.

“You allowed yourself to be used [by the man] to normalise and facilitate his deviant sexual conduct,” Judge Telfer said.

“Your complicity made it all the more difficult for [one victim] to escape the situation she found herself in.”