A Donnybrook man has been sentenced to 12 months jail after admitting he used social media to engage in a sexually explicit conversation with a 14-year-old girl.
Paul Nigel Beswick, 52, pleaded guilty in Bunbury District Court on Monday to using electronic communication with intent to expose a person under the age of 16 years to indecent matter.
Judge Michael Bowden was told Beswick and the victim met through mutual friends in early January with the young girl adding Beswick as a friend on Facebook the following day.
The pair engaged in a 12 day long conversation which defence lawyer Ntuthuko Mcingolwane said started innocently with the girl confiding in Beswick and him offering her advice.
“Unlike other cases of this nature, he did not seek out the complainant,” Mr Mcingolwane said.
“But he did know she was 14 and still proceeded to ask for the photos,” Judge Bowden retorted.
Prosecutor Mark Hamilton said as the conversation progressed Beswick asked the girl a number of sexual related questions and requested nude photos, which the girl sent.
Mr Mcingolwane said his client, a father of three, was suffering depression and had been drinking heavily at the time of the offences.
“Having sobered up, Mr Beswick became very ashamed of the way he behaved, deleted the content and blocked the girl from his social media account,” he said.
“The pre-sentence report suggests he is a low risk of re-offending and I would submit to your Honour that he is not a danger to the public.”
The prosecutor noted Beswick was originally granted bail on April 4 but had that bail revoked five days later after he visited a travel agent seeking a quote on a one way plane ticket to England for himself, his elderly mother and one of his children.
Judge Bowden said a term of immediate imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence that told the community this type of offending is not appropriate. Beswick was ordered to spend a year behind bars, backdated to April 8 and is eligible for parole after six months.
Judge Bowden also ordered the laptop used to communicate with the victim be destroyed.
The victim’s mother released a statement to the media saying this kind of online offending can happen too easily.
“What happened to our family is a warning to all parents to remain vigilant about who and how their children are interacting on social media – even with people they know,” she wrote. “We’re lucky in this case that the offender was stopped before something even worse happened.”
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