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Prominent Melbourne businessman avoids jail for child sex crime – judge suppresses paedophile’s identity until his death

A well-known Melbourne businessman has avoided jail for a child sex offence, and had his identity suppressed until his death.

The homosexual man, who pleaded making child abuse material available using a carriage service, has links to high profile figures in the Victorian legal system, and a judge was brought in from NSW to oversee the case in the County Court.

But despite prosecutors calling for the man to be jailed, Judge Peter Berman on Thursday gave him a 15-month entirely suspended sentence, after making it illegal to publish the paedophile’s name, age or other identifying details for the rest of his life, due to “significant” risk of self-harm.

He was also placed on a three-year good behaviour bond, ordered to pay a recognizance of $5,000, and put on the sex offenders register for eight years.

The man admitted sending graphic voice messages in an online chat room for homosexual men in 2020 and 2021 which detailed vile fantasies about raping babies and toddlers.

Judge Berman described the man’s offending as “disgusting, reprehensible, and frankly, deeply disturbing”.

“You described scenes so vile that it would be quite wrong of me to repeat what you said in this sentencing judgement.

“But to give something of a flavour of what you said, one thing you said that you wanted to do was to sexually assault a child as it was actually being born, although of course you used much more graphic terms than I just did.

“There were countless other things said by you as to what you would like to do to young children and what you would like to see done to young children.”

Defence lawyers argued their client did not directly harm a child, and claimed he had never acted on his sick fantasies, while psychologists described him as “fragile”.

The court heard he had attempted suicide twice, suffers from panic attacks, and was abusing antidepressants and alcohol in the lead-up to the offending.

But Judge Berman said the man’s offending made it “more likely that children will be sexually assaulted and thus harmed in the most awful way”, and said it was clearly harmful.

“Such communications make more normal the sort of abuse you described. Something which should never happen (but clearly does) is made more likely to happen by people talking in the terms you did,” he said in his judgment.

“Any suggestion that children can be used for sexual purposes is to be deplored and such suggestions should never be made.”

In his suppression order Judge Berman ruled: “I have identified earlier in this judgment the importance of identifying the offender as a means of demonstrating the integrity and impartiality of Victorian courts and strengthening public confidence in the system of justice.

“However, the risk to his safety is significant. It is not just a risk that he will suffer from depression or some other mental illness. It is a risk that he will commit suicide. The nature of the harm could not be greater. Further, the likelihood that that harm will eventuate is far from fanciful or remote.

He then stated that the case was one where “the public interest in demonstrating the integrity and impartiality of Victorian courts and strengthening public confidence in the system of justice must give way to the personal interest of the offender himself because of the real risk to his safety that the unchallenged evidence demonstrates”.

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