The former manager of a Canberra fast food restaurant has avoided jail after pleading guilty to sexual offences against a 14-year-old employee.
Instead of prison time, the man has been given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence, with 300 hours of community service.
The offences happened in 2014 when the then-21-year-old struck up a friendship with the girl at work.
The man, now 25, first asked the girl to send him lewd images of herself on the phone.
Soon afterwards the relationship became sexual, with most of the offences occurring at his home.
The girl broke off the relationship after a short time and the man left his job.
She has had little contact with him since.
Justice Michael Elkaim said the man was entitled to a discount on his sentence because he pleaded guilty.
But he said he was disturbed by the man’s attitude to the offences.
“He maintains that there is a degree of unfairness in the charges because the sexual intercourse had been consensual,” Justice Elkaim said.
“He seems to not fully understand that a 14-year-old person is unable to give consent to sexual intercourse.
“He attributed some blame to the victim for being flirtatious while at work.”
Judge faced ‘dilemma’ in sentencing
Justice Elkain told the man he was wrong.
“The law says a young person under the age of 16 is unable to consent to sexual intercourse,” he said.
“The law is absolutely correct.”
In a statement to the court the victim said she was vulnerable at the time, that the events destroyed her trust in the offender and she had continuing thoughts about the impact of the crime.
Justice Elkaim said he faced a difficult task in sentencing.
“The dilemma that faces me is to balance the need for punishment and deterrence against the destruction of a young man’s future,” he said.
He noted there were risks to placing a person who had no criminal record in jail.
And he said he took into account that there was no evidence of predatory behaviour on the man’s part.
The man will also serve a two-and-a-half-year good behaviour order.