By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
A 65-year-old man who approached a six-year-old girl outside a primary school in regional Victoria while on his mobility scooter in an attempt to abduct and sexually assault her has been jailed for six years.
Ian Hooper of Mildura went to the school on his mobility scooter one afternoon in December 2019, just 350 metres from his home.
Once he arrived, he approached the little girl, who he did not know.
He then lured her to jump on the scooter and started to sexually assault her as he rode away.
However, a mother who had come to the school to collect her own children noticed the man with the girl and intervened the situation, taking the young girl to safety.
Hours later at his home, Mr Hooper was arrested by police.
At the time, he denied assaulting the child.
Abductor Admits He “Got a Little Girl Because [He] Couldn’t Get a Big One”
On 17 July 2020, Mr Hooper fronted the Victorian County Court over the chilling incident where he pleaded guilty to abducting and sexually assaulting the young girl.
He admitted his intention had been to take her to his house, telling police he “felt like doing this for a little while”.
He also professed that he’d wanted to play with the child’s vagina and “got a little girl because [he] couldn’t get a big one”.
Victorian County Court Judge, Gregory Lyon, jailed the man for a maximum of six years, condemning the offender’s actions as “the stuff of nightmares for all children’s parents”.
At the same time, he also praised the mother for confronting the man.
“The community must be grateful for the vigilance and tenacity of the witness who saw you and confronted you,” Judge Lyon said.
Extending on this, he also mentioned the child’s parents were to be commended for promptly organising counselling for their daughter following the incident, despite stating the long-term consequences of the abduction may not yet be known.
“Medium to High Risk He Will Reoffend”: Psychologists Weigh In On Man’s Status
After pleading guilty to the abduction and sexual assault, Mr Hooper was assessed by two psychologists, who found the man to lack any awareness of the ramifications of what he had done to the young girl.
Instead, according to psychological reports, Mr Hooper was angry about what happened to him after being caught with the girl.
Meanwhile, the court heard that as a child, Mr Hooper had suffered abuse, while in his 40s he had undergone two strokes.
It was also determined the man may suffer from an undiagnosed intellectual disability, and had developed brain injury.
Ultimately, forensic psychologist, Michael Davis, concluded there was a medium to high risk Mr Hooper would reoffend in the future, despite him having had no previous convictions for sex crimes.
Dr Davis also said there was a strong likelihood Mr Hooper would need to be placed in residential care on his release, “with safeguards to ensure he cannot target elderly persons”.
Mr Hooper must serve at least four years’ jail and will not be eligible for parole until December 2023.
He was placed on the sex offender register for eight years.
In NSW, section 87 of the Crimes Act 1900 outlines that a person guilty of abducting a child aged under the age of 12 will face a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
Under section 87, a person will be guilty of child abduction if they take or detain a child with the intention to remove or keep the child from lawful control of a person who has parental responsibilities (or lawful control) of the child, without the consent of that person.
Moreover, a person is also guilty of child abduction if they take or detain a child with the intention of stealing from the child.
Here, a “child” is defined as a person under the age of 12 years.
Again, the maximum penalty for an offence of this kind is imprisonment for 10 years.
“Detaining a child” is understood as causing the child to remain where he or she is.
“Taking a child” includes causing the child to accompany a person and causing the child to be taken.
For more information on child abduction or kidnapping charges, get in touch with our criminal lawyers located in Blacktown, Parramatta and Sydney CBD.