Grafton Court House
Grafton Court House

Bail for man on child sex charges due to COVID-19 outbreak

A GRAFTON Local Court magistrate has used the coronavirus pandemic in his reasoning to grant bail to a 22-year-old man charged with child sex offences.

The man cannot be identified to protect the victim of the alleged offences.

He has been charged with indecent assault of a person under 16 years of age and grooming a child under 14 years for unlawful sexual activity.

Magistrate Michael Dakin said the police case in the second of the two charges was particularly strong and there were fears that because the alleged offending occurred within a family in a small town, it would be hard to guarantee both the victim's safety and the integrity of witnesses.

But he said because of the "pandemic" and the absence of prior criminal activity by the accused plus the willingness of a family member to allow him to live outside his home community, he would grant bail.

But Mr Dakin said on the facts provided the prosecution case was strong on the second charge with a custodial sentence likely.

The court was told the first charge attracted a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and the second charge, 12 years.

The prosecution opposed bail on the grounds the man could influence witnesses and no conditions could be imposed to protect the victim.

But the accused's solictor, Josh Craig, said because the charges could go to a higher court, his client could spend a significant time in jail waiting for his court appearance.

He said conditions including a $2000 surety and staying with another family member in another town provided an assurance he did not see the victim or any witnesses.

Police said earlier this month, detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation following reports a girl had received sexually explicit images through a social media application from a man who was known to her.

Following investigations, detectives arrested a 22-year-old man at a home in the state's north on Thursday.

He charged with indecent assault person under 16 years of age and groom child under 14 years for unlawful sexual activity.

Police will allege in court that the man indecently assaulted the girl - then aged between 10 and 11 - between November 2017 and October 2018.

Police allege the man sent sexually explicit images to the girl through a social media application.

His bail conditions included a surety of $2000, a prohibition to stay at least 3km away from the town in which the alleged offences were committed, not to attend any international airport and reporting to police each Sunday.

His case has been adjourned to Grafton Local Court on April 6.