Man groomed 14-year-old girl online, met in person near central Victorian town

A MAN who groomed a 14-year-old girl online and then met her in a central Victorian location has appealed his three-month jail term.

The Melbourne man in his 50s, whose name was suppressed by the court, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Friday after pleading guilty to grooming for sexual conduct with a child under 16 years.

The court heard the girl told the man of her real age when they met on the dating website Fast Flirting in 2015. It is not alleged that the man provided a fake age.

They exchanged 68 text messages over a two day period and arranged to meet in a private location just outside of a town in central Victoria.

The man “spent some time” with the girl but it was not alleged that they engaged in sexual activity.

Over the following four days, the man sent the girl nude photographs and sexual videos, and they engaged in “phone sex”.

They then arranged to meet for a second time, but it did not occur because the girl’s phone was discovered and confiscated by her mother.

The next month they went to police and the girl provided a description of the man.

Police raided the man’s house two months later and seized some electronic devices. Evidence of “grooming” was apparent on his phones.

He gave a mostly “no comment” interview to police.

The court heard the man had few prior matters before the court and had “excellent” prospects of rehabilitation.

A victim impact statement outlined how the girl had been “significantly adversely affected by [the] crime”.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Martin Friend said the man had disregarded his “duty of care” towards the girl and a lengthy jail term was warranted.

“Once he established she was a 14-year-old girl he should have abandoned it,” he said.

Magistrate Patrick Southey described the offending as “opportunistic”.

“You must have known it was seriously wrong,” he said.

“Your behaviour was absolutely predatory, but not as predatory as some.”

He was sentenced to three-months prison to be followed by a 24-month community corrections order, and he was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for eight years.

An appeal was lodged soon after and the man was released on bail.