County Court of Victoria Judge Paul Higham sentenced a Melbourne man who gave a 14-year-old boy he met on Grindr the drug GHB and sexually abused him to at least two years.
Andrew Castles, 28, admitted he met the child, who prosecutors said was a vulnerable transgender boy in state care, in 2017 through the Grindr app, AAP reported.
The boy’s profile gave his age as 18. However, the boy later admitted his real age in messages exchanged on the app.
A week later, the boy told Castles he wanted to meet for sex and to take drugs. The man agreed to pick up the child down the street from his care facility to avoid anyone seeing him.
Castles drove the victim to his home and then gave the child a moderate 0.5ml dose of GHB before sexually abusing him, the court heard.
When the child was sleeping, Castles took a naked photo of him and saved it to his phone.
Castles told a forensic psychologist that he first experienced sex with men when younger than the boy.
“I thought it would be safer if he learnt with me.”
The man later described the offences as a “dark episode of my life”.
The man’s lawyer earlier argued “consent has been clearly given” as the child was seeking sexual encounters on Grindr.
The judge said at a sentencing hearing on Friday (March 1) that children cannot give meaningful consent.
Judge Higham told Castles that “when we go onto the online world… we must take with us our moral compass.”
“That means we must take with us our sense of what is right and what is wrong. And you knew your conduct was wrong,” Judge Higham said.
“Your initial reaction when told of your victim’s age was, ‘Oh s–t’. That was the right reaction.
“You were driven by your desire, by your own sexual gratification.”
Castles had pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16, supplying a drug of dependence to a child and producing child abuse material.
The judge sentenced Castles to three years and 10 months in prison, with a non-parole period of two years and three months. He will also be placed on the sex offenders register for 15 years.
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