Foster girl suffers sex abuse at hands of 'dad'
EXCLUSIVE: A Mackay teen sexually abused by her foster mum's partner raised the alarm after she snapped a photo in a mirror of the man she called dad taking off her underwear.
Despite the extraordinary breach of trust against the girl in her early teens and her foster mum - described as "despicable" by a judge - he will serve just eight months behind bars before being released.
The man in his 40s will then serve a probation order in the community, involving enrolment in a program aimed at rehabilitating sex offenders.
We can't name the man to protect the girl's identity.
Facing the District Court in Mackay on Friday, the child sex offender pleaded guilty to four counts of indecently treating a child under 16 in his care.
The man's parents watched on from the public gallery.
Between January, 2015 and November, 2016, the man rubbed the girl's vagina, simulated raping her on a skin-on-skin basis twice, and pulled her shorts up to look at her vagina.
" ... it essentially relates to four occasions that he committed an indecent act towards effectively his foster child. He was in a relationship with the child's mother at the time the offences occurred in the family home," said Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence.
The first time the abuse occurred, the man threatened to hurt the girl's grandma.
"In respect of count one, that related to rubbing the complainant on the vagina and at the end of that offending he told her that if she told anyone he would hurt her grandma," Ms Lawrence said.
"In respect of counts two and three, that related to separate incidents of simulated intercourse
"And in respect of count four, it related to an occasion where the defendant had entered the complainant's room and as she was lying on her bed he pulled up her shorts to look at her vagina.
"She was able, while that was occurring, to take a photograph in the mirror of her bedroom, which displays that conduct by the defendant and ultimately really led to the detection of these offences."
Police swoop in
In an interview with police after his arrest in April, 2017, the man denied the offences.
"But when shown that photograph, he accepted that it was him in it and said, and I quote, 'it looks like I'm f---ing grabbing at her a--e'," Ms Lawrence said.
The man claimed the photo "had been taken at a deceiving angle", but conceded "I probably did accidentally put my hand on her butt as I was getting the computer".
Ms Lawrence said it was clear by the man's pleas he accepted the extent of his abuse against the girl, who had referred to the man as her "dad".
Victim impact statements by the girl and her grandma were forwarded to the court, which Judge Ian Dearden later stated "broke my heart".
Ms Lawrence said it was clear the offending "had a significant impact" on the girl, who "suffers flashbacks" and has "trouble sleeping".
"She obviously now does not want to leave the house and they are looking at alternative schooling for her, because she fears running into the defendant or his family members," the prosecutor said.
It's understood that the man would have been required to hold a Blue Card while living with the girl. Under the Child Protection Act, an adult living in a house in which foster care is provided needs to possess a Blue Card, aimed at minimising the risks of harm.
Ms Lawrence told the court the girl now lived with a relative.
Soon after, she suggested the man could be jailed for three years, with parole eligibility after one-third was served.
'Disgusted in himself'
In defence, barrister Bronwyn Hartigan said the Mackay man lived with a depressive disorder after he was badly injured in a traffic crash in 2005.
The man had been prescribed an antidepressant, but had been self-medicating with marijuana at the time of his offending.
A letter was forwarded from the man's employer - who was aware of the offences - which spoke "highly of him".
Ms Hartigan said her client "wasn't thinking straight", was remorseful and "disgusted in himself", but there was "good prospects of full rehabilitation".
The man had been attending a domestic violence offenders program and passed a drug test, the barrister said, adding the man didn't ejaculate, lessening the case's seriousness.
The prosecutor Ms Lawrence did not argue with Ms Hartigan that the man should serve a jail term of two and a half years, suspended after six months.
Judge Dearden took into account early pleas, but said the crimes were "despicable".
He added "we are all precious human beings" and said it had been the man's responsibility to be "nurturing" to the girl in his role as her father.
In the end, the man was sentenced to three years jail, with a term of eight months before he's released on probation for two years and four months.
Indecent treatment can muster a maximum penalty of 20 years jail.