My story: sentencing

I spoke about the court process yesterday. To round out the month, I’ll talk briefly about the charges I received and the sentencing for them.

As I said in my post about getting caught, I was arrested due to my habit of taking candid photos of teenage girls I saw in public. The initial charge for this was stalking. Whilst that particular incident wouldn’t really classify as stalking from a psychological perspective, the evidence of other photos I’d taken helped secure a conviction.

I had also shared some of the photos I’d taken online. Whilst the photos themselves were technically legal, the context meant I was charged with “using a carriage service to offend”.

Those charges were issued on the basis of what I revealed in my interview with Police and what was found on my phone and camera. The problem, though, from a Police perspective, is that stalking is not a relevant offence under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA). And when you catch someone who is sexually attracted to children and has young victims, you want to get them on the registry.

So, Police delved deeper into the contents of my computer. I had always been careful to avoid child pornography, partly for legal reasons, and partly because it didn’t really appeal to me. What I was most interested in were photos of girls just being themselves, whether that be in candid photos like the ones I had taken, or various other photos people had collected from around the web.

The offences in the Crimes Act are still titled possession of child pornography and production of child pornography, but when it comes to assessing what does and does not classify, the proper term is used: child exploitation material. Some of the photos I had saved were considered to be non-sexual, but exploitative by forensic investigators, which meant they were able to charge me with possession. And, for whatever reason, saving the files to disk is considered to be production, so they added that to the charge sheet as well. (So, if you read articles in the news about people being charged with production of child pornography, it doesn’t necessarily mean they created it in the first place.)

My lawyer discussed the court summary with the prosecutor, and pointed out that it would be duplicitous to have both the possess and produce charges, as they are basically for the same thing. So, the prosecutor dropped the possess charge, leaving the more serious offence on the table. This makes a real difference, as a single charge results in an 8 year term on the registry, and multiple offences (or offences that are more serious) result in a 15 year term on the registry.

So, the final sentence:

  • A fine for the “using a carriage service to offend” charge, as that comes under federal law and can’t be bundled in with the Victorian charges.
  • A two year Community Corrections Order (CCO) for the other charges, including a condition to do a mental health assessment and adhere to any recommendations, such as participating in a group therapy programme.
  • Eight years on the Sex Offenders Registry.
  • Forfeiture of my computer equipment and other seized items.

Yes, it could have been a lot harsher, and no doubt many people would say that it should have been. What I do know is that the Magistrate was considering a prison term as one of the sentencing options, and I think it’s likely he would have chosen that option had I not already made significant progress in treatment with my psychologist. A risk assessment showed there was a low risk of me committing a contact offence, and the Corrections assessment showed that I was a suitable candidate for a CCO.

Tips for offenders:

  • Get in early and start taking affirmative action to learn from your past and put new strategies in place for the future. If your lawyer can’t recommend a good psychologist, find one yourself. Basically, you can’t expect to be treated fairly unless you’re actually going to make a change.
  • The world owes you nothing. Accept what you’ve done, be respectful, show deference. If you minimise or rationalise your actions, or go in with a whiny attitude, you’ll be judged accordingly. Sentencing is about holding you to account for past actions and ensuring community safety into the future. Instead of focusing on what you think is fair, or how the sentence will affect you, put the focus on what you’re doing to change, and how a CCO can help you achieve that.

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