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DPP v Robertson [2022] VCC 1078

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 20 counts of using a carriage service to cause child abuse material to be transmitted to themselves contrary to s 474.22(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, 7 counts of using a carriage service to procure a person under 16 years of age for sexual activity contrary to s 474.26(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, 2 counts of using a carriage service to groom a person under 16 for sexual activity contrary to s 474.27(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, 1 count of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material contrary to s 474.22(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, and 1 count of possessing or controlling child abuse material accessed or obtained using a carriage service contrary to s 474.22A(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Offender was also sentenced for state child exploitation offences.

Nature and Circumstances: Offender adopted a systematic approach and developed personas to enable them to exploit the victims. Offender initially used the personas and scripts to target specific vulnerable victims. To obtain the child abuse material, offender contacted the children online and commenced building up trust with them then quickly turned the conversation. The use of promises, threats, bribes, and emotional blackmail shows a high degree of manipulative planning and sophistication. Offending was large scale and took place over approximately 2 years and 4 months. Victims ages were from 9 to 16 years. Many were vulnerable in ways other than their age. Offending ranged between below mid-range objective seriousness to above mid-range and well above mid-range. The total criminality involved is of a remarkably high order.

Antecedents: Offender’s prior lack of offending is of lesser significance as the offence of possessing child pornography is frequently committed by persons of prior good character. It is legitimate to give less weight to good character as a mitigating factor.

Contrition: Offender expressed regret to psychologist. However, this expression of regret is based around what offender says is their need for therapeutic assistance,  and is thus a self-focused consideration and pity rather than genuine remorse. Offender’s expression of remorse does not acknowledge any harm caused to the victims or to the community in general.

Mental Condition: Offender suffered from depression, borderline personality disorder, and paedophilia. Offender claims to have been sexually abused when they were a child and told psychologist that they committed the offences because they saw it as a way of accessing the help they desired. Offender supplied research to support the claim that childhood sexual assault results in the victims becoming offenders later in life. However, the suggestion is not supported by the research nor is there evidence that it is the case for the offender except for their self-report. Offender did not commit the offences so they could get caught and therefore attract mental health assistance. Offender’s prior sexual abuse may have influenced their mental health, but their poor mental health did not drive their offending. Offender’s mental condition will make their time in custody more onerous. It is probable  custody treatment programs may be temporarily unavailable due to COVID.

Offender sentenced to 11 years, 3 months, and 8 days imprisonment with a non-parole period of 7 years and 3 months.
The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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