A FRIENDSHIP that began on social media has landed a 23-year-old Merbein man in court after he knowingly entered into a sexual relationship with a minor.
The man struck up a friendship with a 14-year-old girl before it evolved into a sexual relationship between February and May last year.
A County Court sitting at Mildura yesterday heard the accused, who cannot be named to protect the victim’s identity, on occasion picked the girl up from school and the movies and drove her to various locations, including near Mildura Ski Club and Nowingi Place, for consensual sexual acts.
The court heard in May last year the man ended the relationship, saying she was too young and they should wait until she was older, however the victim threatened to contact police.
When the victim’s parents became aware of the relationship they intervened and police were notified.
Judge Michael Bourke yesterday said while it was easy for people to over-emphasise the fact of consent, it was the age of the victim that mattered.
“His actions exploited the vulnerability of a girl who has suffered the consequences,” he said.
Defence barrister Paul D’Arcy said when confronted by police and taken to the police station, the man immediately stated: “I knew she was under age, I made a mistake.”
The court also heard the man had since taken part in a sexual offender treatment program.
He yesterday pleaded guilty to sexual penetration with a child under 16 and committing an indecent act with a child under 16.
He will face the County Court for sentence on Tuesday.
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