30 September 2022

Woman accused of acts of indecency, grooming, of underage employee

| Claire Fenwicke
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ACT Law Courts Photo: Michelle Kroll Region Media

A woman has been accused of acts of indecency and grooming one of her employees, as well as possessing child exploitation material of another. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses alleged indecent assault of minors.

A woman who allegedly admitted she “couldn’t help herself” has been refused bail on charges of grooming and acts of indecency on a young person under special care.

The 28-year-old, who Region has not named to protect the complainants, has been accused of indecent acts on a then 15-year-old girl who had been under her employ.

The statement of facts allege the offences took place in 2019 at the woman’s Gungahlin business. It’s alleged the complainant and the woman exchanged text messages, which became “more sexual in nature” around April of that year.

“[The defendant] asked her if she had tried masturbation and told her to try it herself and see what she liked,” the document claimed.

“The defendant told her that she found it ‘hot’ when girls send her videos of themselves and she ‘finds it a tease’.”

It’s alleged in late July the woman kissed the teenager on the lips during one of their shifts.

The following day it’s alleged the pair went to the business’s staff-only bathroom where they again kissed, before it’s claimed the woman touched the teenager’s buttocks and breasts.

It’s alleged the pair would kiss every shift over the next month, and that during the kisses the defendant would “touch and rub” the complainant’s genital area over her clothes, as well as “cup and squeeze her breasts, bite her neck, her lips, hold her really tight and dig her nails into [the complainant’s] skin”.

The complainant was confronted by her father about her alleged relationship with the woman in August 2019, after which he went to the police.

In February this year the complainant took herself to police and reported the relationship.

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In the same month police also received a report about a second teenager who was in an “ongoing relationship” with the defendant.

It’s alleged this teenager was employed by the woman in 2020 when she was 15 and the pair commenced a domestic relationship in 2021.

As part of their investigations, police interviewed the second girl’s grandmother.

The grandmother stated in late 2021 she had found three “Instamatic” photos on the floor of her granddaughter’s room.

It’s alleged one photo showed the teenager in a G-string, another showed the teenager and the defendant kissing on a bed while naked, and the third showed the top half of the teenager on the same bed, also naked.

The grandmother claimed she had found similar photos in her granddaughter’s bedside drawer.

On Thursday (29 September) police attended a Casey address to execute a search warrant on the defendant.

Officers claim the woman told them she had kissed the first complainant on the lips three times, and that she had explicit photos and videos of the second complainant on her phone.

Police said they found 11 photos, eight of which were believed to be the second complainant, during their search warrant.

The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with three acts of indecency on a young person in special care and grooming for the first complainant, and intentionally possessing child exploitation material in relation to the second complainant.

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The woman’s defence lawyer applied for bail in ACT Magistrates Court on Friday 30 September, arguing four of the five charges were “somewhat historical” in nature.

She said the woman could live with her parents in Taylor and was in the process of selling her Gungahlin business. She also proposed strict bail conditions where the woman could not possess a phone, computer or laptop that was able to access the internet.

However Prosecutor James Molloy argued against bail, submitting there was a likelihood of reoffending and of the defendant interfering with complainants.

He argued these were “very serious” allegations where the woman had “abused a position of trust” against “vulnerable and easily influenced underage girls”.

Mr Molloy said police investigations were ongoing, and he anticipated there would be a third complainant.

“[The defendant] has a long history of grooming young persons under her care,” he argued.

He also said the defendant had admitted to police she and the second complainant were discussing moving interstate, which made him concerned she may fail to appear in court if granted bail.

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Magistrate Robert Cook also read from submitted material there was a concern over re-offending as the woman was in a relationship with the second complainant.

He said he was concerned it wouldn’t matter what conditions he put in place if the woman had said to police she was “aware [the relationship] was not lawful but she can’t help herself”.

“[While these are] allegations at this stage, they are serious,” Magistrate Cook said.

“I’m not satisfied any bail conditions would regulate the emotional conduct of the defendant.”

Magistrate Cook denied bail, with the matter to be listed in the Family Violence Court on 18 October.

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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