Amount of sexual and child abuse crime in Bendigo caused 14-month delay to investigation, court told

THE sheer amount of sexual and child abuse crimes in Bendigo meant local detectives did not interview a man accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl until 14 months after the offence occurred, a court has heard.

The delay meant that the perpetrator Lachlan Dean, 22, of Epsom, was charged with the sexual penetration of the girl 16 months after he committed the offence.

Dean – who gave the girl drugs and provided her alcohol before committing the offence – pleaded guilty in the County Court in Melbourne on Thursday to one charge.

The court was told Dean, who was 19 at the time, had communicated with the girl via text messages and on social media for several months before they met up in 2014.

Dean provided the girl with tablets, but police could not determine what drugs they were.

He also gave the girl alcohol and she was “clearly highly intoxicated and affected by alcohol and the substance”.

The victim managed to get away from Dean during the incident and contacted police six days later.

Dean was not interviewed by police for 14 months because of the workload in the Bendigo region at the time for detectives investigating sexual offences, the court was told.

He failed to appear at a court hearing and a warrant was issued for his arrest, further delaying the case.

Dean pleaded guilty to the charge almost two years after the offence occurred.

The victim did not provide an impact statement to the court, but Judge Frank Gucciardo said offending of this nature can harm the victim due to the “levels of psychological and sexual immaturity involved”.

“Up until now you have had difficulty understanding plainly what you did wrong,” he said.

“What you have to understand is that it’s simply unacceptable for a young man of your age to engage in sexual activity with underage persons.”

His defence counsel argued that the fact one of Dean’s relatives had a child at 14 may have influenced his attitudes towards sex with minors.

Judge Gucciardo dismissed this assertion.

Dean is also soon to become a father, the court was told, a situation that Judge Gucciardo said meant it was imperative that he avoid further crime.

“If you are purporting now to very soon being a father of a child, I suggest to you: grow up,” he said.

“You better be thinking about things like work, a house, and other such activities.”

Dean was convicted and placed on an 18-month community corrections order with assistance for drug-related issues, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid community work. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 15 years.