Strathdale man groomed 15-year-old online, was caught in possession of GHB

A STRATHDALE man who attempted to groom a 15-year-old girl online has appealed his 24-month prison sentence.

Ashleigh Hemming, 28, was also caught in possession of the drug GHB after he was seen driving erratically on the McIvor Highway near Axedale.

Hemming appeared in the Bendigo County Court on Wednesday to attempt to reduce his jail term on charges of grooming a child under 16 for sex, possessing GHB and other charges.

The court heard Hemming sent a 15-year-old girl – who does not live in Bendigo – a friend request on Facebook on March 10, asking her if she had an account on the website “Sugar Daddy”.

He told the girl he was 24. Her age was publicly displayed on her Facebook profile.

They had a conversation via Messenger, during which Hemming told her she was “exactly the girl he wanted”, he offered to buy her presents in exchange for sex and asked for naked photographs.

When the girl told Hemming her father was a police officer, he told her to delete their messages and to move to an encrypted messaging service.

The girl took the matter to police the same day.

They raided Hemming’s Strathdale home two days later and seized computers and mobile phones, finding four movies described as child exploitation material.

Hemming has remained in custody since, and was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on May 17 to 24 months jail with a 12-month non-parole period.

He was also caught driving erratically on the McIvor Highway heading towards Axedale on February 24.

Police were told the car was travelling slowly, veering all over the road, narrowly missing a bridge and causing other vehicles to swerve out of the way.

Police pulled up alongside him when he stopped for roadworks, and found him in a “confused” state.

Hemming told police he thought he was “nearly home”, despite driving away from Bendigo. He then fell into a deep sleep.

Police found a 600 millilitre water bottle in the footwell on the passenger side with 80 millilitres of clear liquid inside.

It was believed to be the drug GHB.

The court heard Hemming has a long history of drug use which “plays havoc with his mental state”. His approach to the young girl was also blamed on his drug use.

Judge Susan Cohen ordered a forensic report be complete before she makes her ruling.

“There’s a worrying lack of opinion to help assess his risk,” she said.

Hemming was remanded in custody and will appear in the Bendigo County Court in October.