A Ballarat handyman had a "significant obsession" with one of his former customers when he drove past her house up to 10 times a day, set up a shrine of her at his house and took daily videos associated with her over a six-month period.
Luke William Butterfield's behaviour between July 1, 2018 and January 10, 2019 was described as significant, unusual and obsessive at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Michael Patterson said the victim hired Butterfield three years ago to complete work at her Ballarat property but over the following months, the victim sensed he had feelings for her.
He said Butterfield started to send the victim Facebook messages saying he liked and loved her, and he wanted to father her child.
In August 2018, the victim was ordering supplies when a store manager told her Butterfield had been telling him he was in a relationship with her and he had seen pictures of her on his mobile phone.
Sergeant Patterson said two months later, the victim saw Butterfield driving his business vehicle past her property three days in a row.
The victim felt scared and unsafe after Butterfield followed her in his vehicle, so she changed her house locks and added a security camera and padlocks to her property.
Police searched Butterfield's house on January 7 where they located multiple pictures of the victim, including pictures where he had 'photoshopped' himself into them.
"Police combed through the accused's hard drives and located daily videos over a six month period where he was driving past (the victim's) address making comments about and to the victim as he drove past," Sergeant Patterson said.
In some cases the accused drove past the victim's residence eight to 10 times a day. The videos were taken by the accused using his mobile phone as a dash camera.Sergeant Michael Patterson
Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz said pictures tendered to the court of Butterfield's photo display of the victim was set up like a shrine, which included burning candles and gifts.
"There were a number of photos which were somewhat alarming. I have had to make an assessment of the significance of your offending, the unusual nature of your offending and the obsessiveness of your offending," Ms Mykytowycz said.
"There is a photograph where you have established a shrine."
After finding out about the shrine, the victim told police she was "very shocked about how far he had gone and was totally creeped out".
Butterfield was arrested on January 16 and was admitted to the Ballarat Base Hospital for a psychiatric examination after he was deemed unfit for a police interview.
When he was eventually interviewed, the 31-year-old made partial admissions to the offending.
Defence barrister Simon Tan said his client had been a voluntary inpatient at hospital and had regular contact with his doctor.
He urged the court to consider sentencing Butterfield to a community correction order with mental health supports.
The magistrate told Butterfield he thought he was in a relationship with the victim by 'photoshopping' himself into a photo of her and putting it on his steering wheel, driving past her house and talking with her.
"This is stalking, it's significant and serious behaviour," Ms Mykytowycz said.
"I understand you have mental health issues and you were unwell at the time. You do continue to have them now but you are in the community today and you are medicated."
Ms Mykytowycz said she had to protect women's safety and wellbeing and the sentence must deter other people from committing stalking offences.
"I have no doubt when (the victim) learnt of this she was frightened. She was frightened because she had to put a camera out the front of her house, she had to put a lock on her door," she said.
Butterfield was convicted and sentenced to a two-year community correction order with assessment and treatment for mental health. He was placed on judicial monitoring.
He pleaded guilty to one count each of stalking and driving in a manner dangerous.
The driving charge related to an incident in October, 2018, where he sped up to an ambulance at the Creswick Road-Howitt Street intersection.
The magistrate disqualified Butterfield from driving for six months over the incident.
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