24 February 2022

Dad jailed for grooming daughter's 12-year-old best friend at sleepover

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

A father aged in his 30s has been jailed for grooming a 12-year-old girl. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

After a young girl invited her best friend for a sleepover, her father groomed the 12-year-old visitor when they were alone. On Tuesday (22 February), the father, aged in his 30s, was jailed for five months by the ACT Magistrates Court.

“[He] made me feel dirty, like I did something wrong,” the girl wrote in a statement that was read to the court.

Court documents say the two friends were in the house last year when the daughter received a text from her father asking her to send her friend to see him.

The girl arrived and sat on a couch. The father moved closer to her, asked if she’d had sex, then when she replied no, he said, “If I gave you money, will you have sex?” She told him no and left.

When the daughter found out, she confronted her father, saying, “She is in Year 6 … Why did you do this?” She asked her best friend not to say anything because she was afraid of being taken into the care of the authorities.

The 12-year-old wrote in her statement that for some time she was silent because she didn’t want to get the father into trouble.

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The father’s Legal Aid lawyer, Mr Chen, said when the girl told him no, his client didn’t respond with anger, “what he feels is shame”.

But Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter said it was lucky the girl was smart enough to say no and “that’s only because of her, not of him”.

“This is behaviour that is significant and needs to be dealt with,” she said.

Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna said the girl talked about how she lost a number of friends because of the incident and “will undoubtedly remember this event for a long time to come”.

He said the grooming was “direct in its nature” and “there can be no dispute or confusion as to what his motives were”.

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Special Magistrate Hunter accepted that the father received an acquired brain injury some years ago, which explained some of his “bizarre” behaviour since then.

The father pleaded guilty to charges of grooming a young person and contravening a family violence order over an unrelated incident.

He was convicted and sentenced to 13 months’ jail, suspended after five. As it was backdated to account for time served, he is eligible to be released from custody in April 2022 if he signs an 18-month good behaviour order.

He will also be a registered child sex offender for the next eight years.

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