CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses child sex abuse.
The exact charges facing a man who paid a 14-year-old girl for sex have been brought into question during his sentencing hearing at the Queanbeyan District Court.
Mark Roldan Robles Viray previously pleaded guilty to engaging a child in prostitution between the ages of 14 and 18 and having sexual intercourse with a child between 14 and 16 years.
However, all the sexual acts could be rolled up into the prostitution charge once District Court Judge Tanya Bright re-examines the case law.
According to the agreed facts, Viray met the 14-year-old over Snapchat in 2021, at which time she told him her exact age.
However, the then-35-year-old first told the girl he was 19 and then said he was 23. He told the girl he was looking for sex.
The pair agreed to meet at Lanyon Marketplace in Canberra on 6 July 2021 where Viray withdrew $200 from an ATM.
They walked back to his vehicle when the girl said she “wasn’t sure” she wanted to proceed with sexual intercourse.
After further conversation, she agreed to be paid $100 for oral sex in his car.
While driving, Viray said he would take her to a friend’s house, offering the girl $200.
She again said she wasn’t sure she wanted sex, so he increased his offer to $300, to which she agreed.
He ended up driving the girl to his home in Queanbeyan, where he performed oral sex on the girl before they had intercourse.
A week later, the girl complained about the incident to her mother and they reported the matter to police.
Viray was arrested on 9 November 2022. He originally denied he’d been in contact with the 14-year-old, that they’d had sex, and that he’d paid her for sex.
He’s been remanded in custody since that date.
During his sentencing hearing on Thursday (16 November), there were issues over whether he should have been charged with three counts of soliciting a child in prostitution or if all sexual acts could be rolled into the one charge.
Judge Bright said this would determine how she could sentence Viray.
“I’m confused as to why that has happened … it makes no sense,” she said.
“[Presented this way] the court cannot appropriately sentence the offender.”
That issue aside, legal representatives from both sides made submissions for the judge to consider when deciding what sentence to impose.
According to the pre-sentence report, Viray had “minimised his conduct in reflections about his offending”.
He had told the report author he “only found out about [the girl’s] age when it was too late”.
The report also contained statements such as “he was looking for a sex worker and when sex was offered [he] continued despite her age”, and while he knew the victim’s age, he decided to continue “because of his sexual desire, and because she doesn’t look 14”.
Defence solicitor Luke Vozella argued such statements didn’t mean his client was trying to minimise his offending.
He also argued Viray’s decision to take the girl back to his house was an “opportunistic reaction” to the circumstances rather than having pre-planned it.
Judge Bright took issue with those arguments, pointing out that when the victim said she was unsure if she wanted to proceed, Viray “just offered her more money”.
“[Taking her to his home] wasn’t spontaneous … he must have thought about that because what if someone was home?” she said.
“You don’t just turn up to your house with a 14-year-old girl.”
Judge Bright also said Viray’s expressed desire to speak with the girl and her family after his arrest to apologise, while it could show some remorse, showed a “lack of insight into the dynamics of child sexual assault”.
“I suspect he still doesn’t understand the seriousness of the offending,” she said.
“[That] somewhat reduces your capacity to be remorseful.”
The prosecution also rejected Viray’s remorsefulness and understanding of the impact his crimes had on the victim, given the “concerning” statements in the pre-sentence report and his “willingness to continue” their interaction despite knowing she was only 14.
“He was looking for a sex worker, he’s honest about that …. and when sex was offered by the victim, he continued,” Crown prosecutor Jillian Walshe said.
“Nothing stopped him even though he had that knowledge [of her age].”
Ms Walshe also slammed Viray’s comments that the girl looked older than her real age.
“It doesn’t matter how she looks or presents or appears,” she said.
“He knew her age and continued.”
The case will return to Queanbeyan court on 24 November.
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on About Regional.