A 27-year-old man who formerly worked as a student teacher has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female student.
The arrest followed an investigation by the Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad beginning in June of this year, after the alleged victim reported that she had been assaulted by Timothy Benson, of Wauchope Public School.
Detectives involved within the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad are specially trained to investigate matters against children and adults, including sexual assault, serious physical abuse, and extreme cases of neglect.
Mr Benson is alleged to have begun contacting the girl two years ago, after meeting at school, and continued to communicate via social media.
Police allege that his communications with the child progressed to him sending her sexually explicit material.
He is ultimately alleged to have assaulted her on two occasions between July 2018 and June 2019.
He is charged with two counts of having sexual intercourse with a person aged between 14 and 16.
Before Port Macquarie Bail Court, Mr Benson was granted strict conditional bail and will be back in court later this year on the 5th of November.
It is a crime in NSW to have sexual intercourse (or attempt to) with a person aged 14, but under 16. Section 66(3) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) imposes a penalty of up to 10-years in jail.
The penalty rises to a maximum of 12-years imprisonment if this occurs in circumstances of aggravation, pursuant to section 66C(4). This then also attracts a 5-years standard non-parole period.
Such circumstances can entail situations in which the alleged offender:
- Inflict actual bodily harm on the alleged victim or any other person who is present or nearby,
- There was at least one other person present, other than the alleged victim or offender,
- Deprives the alleged victim of liberty before, during or after the commission of the offence,
- Breaks and enters into the victim’s residence with the intention of committing the offence or any other serious offence that carries a penalty of at least 5 years of imprisonment, or
- Was in a position of authority over the victim.
Furthermore, situations of aggravation include where the alleged victim has a serious physical disability, cognitive impairment, or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Incidents of sexual assault are up by 9.4%, with incidents of indecent assault, acts of indecency and other sexual offences currently stable over the last 24 months according to the latest BOSCAR statistics.
Concerns have also been sparked by a reported rise in the targeting of children online, due to increased access following the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, another casual Sydney schoolteacher was charged by police after allegedly engaging in the online grooming of a 14-year-old girl.
Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad’s Child Exploitation Internet Unit had been engaging with the 61-year-old man, leading to him allegedly believing he was chatting with a child.
Even whilst at work, it is alleged that the man sent sexual messages about acts he wished to perform on the supposed girl and had sent sexually explicit material.
The man was charged with use carriage service to groom a child under 16 years for sex, two counts of using a carriage service to send indecent material, using a carriage service to solicit child abuse material, using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse and producing child abuse material.
During his arrest, detectives seized a laptop, a mobile phone, and other electronic devices.
In addition to the applicable penalties that an accused may face, if found guilty and convicted of a child sex offence, a conviction will also attract the offender being classified as a registerable person under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000(NSW).
This means that their relevant details such as name, address, when sentencing occurred, and the court outcome will be recorded on the child protection register and may require reporting to police for a prescribed period of time.
However, in the case of re-offending this may be indefinite.
Furthermore, pursuant to Child Protection (Working With Children) Act 2012 (NSW), a convicted child sex offender will be precluded from obtaining a working with children check clearance, preventing employment in areas such as teaching or child care.
In NSW, the penalty a convicted child groomer can face is up to 10-years in jail if the victim is over 14, but less than 16-years-of-age.
This offence occurs if the prosecution can prove each of the following beyond reasonable doubt under section 66EB(3) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW):
- The child was less than the age of 16 at the time; and
- The child was exposed by the alleged offender to indecent material; or provided the child intoxicating substance causing the child’s senses or understanding to be impacted; and
- the alleged offender did this to make it easier to use the child for sexual activity.
Section 66EB(2) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) prohibits a person from procuring a child for sexual activity, which carries up to 12-years in jail if the child is aged between 14 – 15.