Content warning: this story includes details of childhood sexual abuse.
A “trusted father figure” who sexually abused a child on a cruise ship before blaming his young victim for his actions has been jailed.
Justice Michael Elkaim said the case of 49-year-old John Ronald Brown demonstrated the need for a public warning that “all older men contemplating molesting children” should know they will be caught and punished appropriately.
Brown was sentenced to two years and six-and-a-half months’ jail with a 17-month non-parole period.
One side of the ACT Supreme Court’s gallery was nearly filled with his family and supporters on Wednesday (20 July) and one called out “I love you” before he was led away into custody.
His barrister, John Purnell SC, had asked for an intensive corrections order which would have allowed Brown to serve his sentence in the community, but Justice Elkaim did not think such a sentence was adequate.
“The offending is simply too serious,” he said.
He said Brown was friends with the victim’s family and a “trusted father figure” to the young boy who was aged under 16 and was more than 30 years younger than him.
The offending lasted about six weeks between 2019 and 2020 and involved four acts.
Brown asked the boy about his sexual experience and knowledge, then exposed himself and propositioned him to commit a sexual act. The boy told him no.
On another night, the pair were alone when they had a sexually suggestive conversation. Brown had the boy perform a sexual act on him.
Justice Elkaim said perhaps due to being consumed by the guilt of his appalling conduct, they had a conversation over text about never doing that again.
He said if Brown was remorseful it would not have continued, but it did.
The pair were on a cruise ship when Brown touched the boy inappropriately. The boy again told him to stop but was later showering while still onboard the ship when Brown tried to force his way inside the bathroom.
They were still on board when the boy’s father saw Brown expose himself to his son.
The boy’s family gave statements to the court detailing the impact of Brown’s actions and Justice Elkaim said they showed that in crimes like these, “there is very rarely a single victim”.
“The assault is felt by each member of the family and will be for many years,” he said.
Brown had worked in the public service in NSW before starting his own business where he subcontracted to a travel agency.
A former colleague provided a reference for him, saying he would “not think twice to leave our young children in the care of John”.
Brown’s four children also provided a joint statement for him, in which they said his actions were “completely out of character”.
Justice Elkaim said Brown had been drinking up to 30 beers a night during the offending.
Two medical experts also said there was no significant risk of him reoffending.
Brown had pleaded guilty to a charge of engaging in a sexual relationship with a young person, to which he faced a maximum sentence of 25 years’ jail.
He is eligible to be released on parole in December 2023, just in time for Christmas.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, The Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900, Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. In an emergency call 000.