Former teacher jailed for child pornography

A former teacher has been jailed in the Latrobe Valley County Court over child sex offences. file photograph

A former teacher has been jailed in the Latrobe Valley County Court over child sex offences. file photograph

A former Traralgon school teacher charged with obtaining and possessing child pornography and using social media platforms to communicate indecently with girls as young as 12 has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years' jail.

The Latrobe Valley County Court heard last week the man, who cannot be named to protect his victims, was aged between 21 and 27 and was teaching at a primary school at the time of his offending.

The court heard how the man abused and manipulated girls via Skype and Facebook "for [his] own gratification", Judge John Smallwood said during sentencing.

During a summary of evidence, prosecution barrister Jane Warren said the man communicated with 14 girls aged between 12 and 16 years between November 2009 and August 2015 when he was arrested.

A victim impact statement of an adult-aged woman he abused detailed how she was asked "to expose parts" of herself over Skype (when she was aged 13) and how she now felt "sick and disgusted" years later.

The court also heard he convinced other victims to carry out sex acts on camera.

The man wept loudly in the dock with his face in his hands while the statement was read by Ms Warren.

The court heard how the man would engage in conversations with the girls via social media and ask them to undress and expose parts of their body while on video call, often complimenting them on their appearance in an attempt to make them feel comfortable.

He would often use "various excuses" that his camera was not working due to a technical fault and in some cases led the victims to believe he was as young as 16, the court heard.

After his arrest, the court was told more than 150 images depicting child pornography were located on his computer, six in one of the most serious categories showing penetration between a child and adult, the prosecution detailed.

The court heard how another 1500 images were found on his Facebook account, while 36 videos - some depicting underage girls masturbating - were also located on his computer.

Defence lawyer Kim McFarlane described the man "as a blubbering mess" who had done "significant work to address the issues" following his arrest 20 months into his teaching career.

Ms McFarlane said the man was "someone of good character" who attended a local high school before going on to complete a Bachelor of Education.

She told the court the man would use Facebook and Skype as a "safe haven" after he was bullied at school because of his weight and he found comfort in speaking to the girls online.

The prosecution disputed this and said he "was not seeking comfort from these kids, he's seeking sexual gratification", while Judge Smallwood said "the visual stuff isn't fantasy, there's a kid in front of it".

In sentencing, Judge Smallwood described the offending as "serious" but took into account his good work record, family support and that he had been seeing a forensic counsellor who described him as a "mature man with a lack of insight".

Judge Smallwood said the man had issues with self esteem and his chance of re-offending was low and rehabilitation high, but highlighted the importance of deterrence and need for denunciation given the crimes were "hard to detect".

The man pleaded guilty to 15 charges including 10 of procuring a minor for child pornography, four of using a carriage service to transmit indecent communication for a child under 16, and one count of possessing child pornography.

He will be eligible for parole in 18 months and will be listed on the Register of Sex Offenders for life.

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