A 13-year-old schoolgirl travelled hundreds of kilometres to be with a 36 year old Ballarat man twice after chatting to the man online, a court has heard.
Sebastopol man Dean James, 36, appeared at the Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday charged with two counts of child stealing and a child pornography offence.
Magistrate Peter Couzens said the charges were “too serious” for James to be sentenced and directed the case towards the County Court.
The court heard James and the girl began communicating on an internet chat site in 2008, before the relationship progressed to text messaging.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Bob Anderson read a summary of the offences to the court, explaining that on March 24 this year, the girl sent an image of herself to James’ mobile phone.
He said at about the same time, the 13 year old sent a text to James indicating she was 15.
The court heard that on March 26, James paid for a V/line ticket so the girl could come to Ballarat, which she did the following day.
Sergeant Anderson said she left home in her school uniform, travelled by bus and train and was met by James at the Ballarat train station that afternoon.
He said James took her to his home in Sebastopol, before her parents reported her missing.
Police found the girl hiding at James’ home that night, after he had pretended to officers she wasn’t there.
The court heard she was taken to social welfare accommodation overnight but escaped, spending the remainder of the night with James.
Sergeant Anderson said the pair were located the next day and the girl was reunited with her parents.
It was also revealed that on April 17, the girl again travelled to Ballarat – again in her school uniform – and met with James.
After stopping off at the Sebastopol address, the pair travelled to South Australia, where James was arrested on April 23.
Mr Couzens declined to hear the case further, arguing “it’s not stealing a car, it’s stealing a child.”
The child-stealing charges were adjourned to a committal mention next month.