A 27-year-old man has been jailed for three years for having sex with the 12-year-old daughter of his neighbour. He had a year-long sexual relationship with the girl, it was revealed in the Melbourne County Court.
The man was living with his father and stepmother when he began "grooming" the girl.
No parties to the matter, including the judge, can be named for legal reasons.
The prosecutor said that the man wooed his teenage neighbour with flattery.
"The prisoner would tell the complainant how gorgeous she was, he would say she looked like Drew Barrymore," he said.
He told the court the pair would go on walks and to the movies together and that the man gave her a mobile phone.
"This was part of his grooming (of her), providing her with a clandestine means of communication," the prosecutor said.
The court heard the man told the girl he loved her. They discussed waiting to have sex until she was 16 so it would be legal, but a few weeks later he sent her a text message that said: "F--- it, we should have sex, we should not have to wait because we are in love."
The pair had sex regularly between July 2001 and July 2002.
Counsel for the man said his client suffered depression and was living in a fantasy world at the time.
His psychologist told the court a symptom of his depression had been a fantasy of a stable and loving relationship that would lead to marriage and children.
Today, the judge said he accepted the defence's submissions and agreed that the man's sentence be reduced, because of his mental state and the significant delay between charges being laid and his case coming before the court.
"You lived in a fantasy world and were not able to think rationally or act accordingly," the judge said.
"You are not a predator or pedophile and are not likely to re-offend in the future."
But he said the charges were very serious and demanded a term of imprisonment.
"The offending involved some level of grooming and planning," he said.
"The complainant was young, vulnerable and the court has to take into account that these types of laws were introduced to protect the young persons who are susceptible to these types of approaches."
He said the victim felt she had been robbed of her childhood because of the relationship.
The man pleaded guilty to four representative counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and was sentenced to 36 months jail with 26 months suspended, reports Sarah-Jane Collins in the Age.