A CASTLEMAINE man has admitted to masturbating while stalking a woman and her teenage daughter around a store.
Thomas Alexander Bell, 35, on Friday pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court to seven charges, including stalking, committing a sexual act in the presence of a child, and possessing child abuse material.
The court heard Bell followed the woman and her 13-year-old daughter around the Castlemaine Kmart store on June 26 last year.
The woman and girl saw Bell masturbate as he followed them. The 35-year-old then left the store and waited outside, leaning against a wall.
The woman and her daughter went into another store when they saw him waiting, before taking a longer route to make a complaint at the police station.
The incident was captured on CCTV footage.
Bell was arrested in Bendigo on July 2. His mobile phone was seized and he provided his passcode to detectives.
Officers searched the device and found four images of child abuse material depicting young boys and girls in sexualised poses.
There were also several upskirting images located. Police initially alleged the images depicted underage girls.
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But Magistrate Sharon McRae viewed the material and said the court could not determine beyond reasonable doubt that the images depicted children.
The prosecution subsequently amended the charge.
Defence lawyer Luke Docherty told the court Bell had already served 196 days of pre-sentence detention, which had been particularly onerous due to the lockdown restrictions.
Mr Docherty said Bell needed treatment so he would not reoffend. He said those treatment programs would be difficult to complete in the current prison conditions.
The defence lawyer submitted the offending was serious and a jail term was warranted, but it could be done in combination with a community corrections order so Bell could be supervised and supported once released.
Ms McRae agreed, noting a jail term exceeding 12 months would be too harsh.
The magistrate instead indicated that she would jail Bell for 10 months and then release him on a lengthy corrections order.
Mr Docherty said his client accepted the indication and pleaded guilty to the remaining charges.
The case was adjourned to next week so Bell could undergo the corrections assessment. Bell was remanded in custody ahead of his next court date.
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