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Teen sext haunts man 7 years on

Date

Nicole Brady

A YOUNG man's impulsive decision to email two pictures of himself and his girlfriend having sex when they were 17 still haunts him seven years on.

The man, now 24 and on the sex offender register as a result of that email, found himself back in court and fined $400 last week for accidentally breaching one of the register's stringent reporting requirements: he forgot to tell police when he briefly registered a motorcycle in his name last year.

The young man — who describes sending the email to three male friends as "a completely out of character and stupid thing to do" — broke up with his girlfriend a year after they decided to film themselves having sex.

In what he describes as "a moment of rage" he emailed two still images from the film — in which neither he nor the partially clothed girl was identifiable. Shortly after pressing "send" he regretted his action and contacted the recipients, asking them to delete the pictures. But the girl found out and complained to police.

The pictures were never found as they had been deleted, but the youth's admissions to police led to him being charged with one count of making child pornography and two of transmitting child pornography online.

On legal advice he pleaded guilty, was fined $1000 without conviction and placed on a good-behaviour bond. But he was later notified that the sentence meant it was mandatory he be registered as sex offender for eight years, a stigma that has blighted his life and affected his career options.

A lawyer acting for the man recently pushed for his case to be reviewed hoping that he would be removed from the register, but the review found that as he had been found guilty of three charges, he initially should have been listed for 15 years, not eight, so his length of time on the register has been extended.

One of the requirements of the register is that those listed notify police within 14 days if they buy or register a vehicle. They must also report to police for an annual interview. During last year's interview the man mentioned he had bought a motorbike several months earlier for his new girlfriend and had briefly registered it in his name. Because he had forgotten to immediately tell police, he was charged with breaching his sex offender registration order.

In the Dandenong Magistrates Court last week, magistrate Gerard Bryant accepted the man's error and fined him $400 without conviction.

He told the man that "given the somewhat unusual circumstances in which you found yourself to be on the register", he accepted that children had not been placed at risk by his failure to notify police about the motorcycle.

The man told The Sunday Age that he was relieved by the outcome of the court hearing, but anxious about the extension of his term on the register.

"It's affecting all my relationships with young people. I'm nervous about who I should even be speaking to. It's a very heavy thing to carry," he said.

His lawyer said mandatory registration was costly, and had overloaded the register, diverting resources away from those who posed a genuine risk.

"This client's case is a classic example of how the current system can be counterproductive — for the community, the courts and the person accused," she said.

The Law Reform Commission has urged the government to allow judges and magistrates to use discretion when deciding who should be registered as a sex offender. It also wants a review of those listed and removal of those who do not pose a risk to children.

nbrady@theage.com.au

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