A BENDIGO man who sexually assaulted his five-year-old daughter has been sentenced to five years in prison with a non-parole period of three years.
The 45-year-old appeared before the County Court in Bendigo on Tuesday. He pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual assault of a child under 16 and one charge of knowingly possessing child abuse material.
He will also be on the sex offenders register for 15 years.
The court heard the man was at home alone with his daughter about 6.30am on August 23, 2018.
The five-year-old climbed into his bed and he removed her pyjama pants and assaulted her. He then instructed her to masturbate him.
The mother returned home about 7.15am and noted the man was in a flustered state.
The daughter asked the mother repeatedly throughout the day why her father had assaulted her. The man denied the allegations and said he had only "made a farting noise" on his daughter's stomach.
The court heard the five-year-old told her mother she cried at the time of the assault and that it made her feel sick.
On August 25, 2018 the daughter repeated the questions to her mother and began to cry.
The mother brought the five-year-old to the Bendigo Police Station where the child made a video recorded statement.
The mother and daughter then moved out of the family home to stay with other relatives.
In a police recorded phone call between the mother and the accused, the man said he would never touch his daughter.
He agreed in the call he had a fascination with child exploitation material and agreed the mother had found a file which contained about 200 child abuse videos.
Police arrested the man on August 28, 2018 and searched his home.
He was interviewed by police, where he again denied the allegations and said he thought his daughter was confused about what had happened.
The man was asked about having downloaded child exploitation material five years earlier. He said it was accidental and he had deleted it. He denied accessing any other material since then.
The man's home was searched by police again on September 8, 2018. The mother provided police with a number of DVDs and CDs she had found in the man's study.
A further search was conducted on September 28, 2018 where more DVDs, CDs and a case were seized.
When analysed, police found the discs contained 50,099 child abuse images and 294 child abuse videos of girls aged between 12 and 16 years.
The case also contained 1593 child abuse images and 151 child abuse videos of pre-pubescent girls aged between six and 12 years.
There were eight videos in the case, which showed fathers abusing their young daughters aged between four and nine years.
The man denied an interview in relation to the child abuse material.
Judge Wendy Wilmoth said the charges of sexual assault were serious examples of offending.
"A father assaulting his child in this way is a gross breach of trust and an exploitation of power," Judge Wilmoth said. "Instead of protecting your daughter, you exposed her to harm.
"The abuse of children is regarded with enormous contempt by the community and it is accepted that the sentence should reflect that."
Judge Wilmoth said she took into account it happened on one occasion in what appeared to be a "spontaneous and opportunistic manner".
The Judge said the child exploitation material charge was also at a higher level of seriousness given the large number of images seized.
"There is an absence of aggravating features, such as distribution or any commercial aspect," Judge Wilmoth said.
Judge Wilmoth said the man had told the mother they were accidental and that he would delete them.
"Neither statement was true," the Judge said. "You retained them and continued to have access to them.
"That fact undermines your assertion that you never had a sexual interest in your daughter and contributes to your greater moral culpability."
Judge Wilmoth also noted the offending has had a "profound" impact on the mother and child.
In a victim impact statement from the mother, the court heard the child was worried she was in trouble and she was scared her father would do something else.
The mother also added her daughter's whole family life had been ruined by the offending.
A psychological report presented to the court found while the man accepted responsibility for his actions, he was having difficulty accepting the wrongfulness of his offending.
The report determined the man had no psychological disorders although he was either consciously or unconsciously coping with the offending through repression.
The report also noted the man was at a moderate to high risk of re-offending.
Judge Wilmoth said the man pleaded guilty to the charges at a relatively early stage and that the plea indicated better prospects of rehabilitation
"It is imperative that you participate in offence specific treatment, which you are willing to do," the Judge said.
The man has been jailed for five years, with a non-parole period of three years. He will be on the sex offenders register for 15 years.
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