Bendigo man placed on sex offender register for grooming teenager

A man who tried to groom a teenage girl through almost 6000 text messages and stroked her thigh while at the movies will spend 15 years on the sex offender register.

Norman Morris, 47, was also put on an 18-month community corrections order, must serve 200 hours of community work, and undertake a sex offenders program after pleading guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court yesterday to sexual assault and grooming.

The California Gully resident began texting the then-15-year-old victim in August 2016 and it was not long before his messages became more inappropriate in nature. In one such message, Morris told the girl he could not sleep and asked if she would hold him, sing him a lullaby and rock him to sleep.

Morris arranged to meet the girl at a shopping centre on two occasions in August, and also gave her a bottle of perfume.

The following month, he organised for himself, the victim and another teenager to go to the cinema, and pleaded with the victim to wear a dress.

On the date arranged, the victim arrived at the cinema, but Morris arrived without the other friend.

During the movie, Morris stroked the outside of the victim’s thigh and grabbed her hand, behaviour police prosecutor Senior Constable Martin Friend said left the victim “deeply disturbed”.

When Morris texted her that afternoon saying he had a good time, she replied that what had happened could not happen again.

From that date Morris contacted the victim daily, with more than 5900 text messages sent between August 2016 and April 2017.

The victim confided in her mother, who took her to the police station, and Morris was arrested in August 2017.

Morris’ defence counsel Tass Antos told Magistrate Michael King his client looked after his mother, who suffered cancer, his grandmother, and his son.

In delivering his sentence, Dr King told Morris he had taken advantage of a young woman, and these sorts of offences had the potential to have ongoing impacts on victims. But he noted that Morris had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and was a caregiver.