By Star Weekly
By Erin Pearson, The Age
A New Zealand national accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in a park has been released on bail after his defence lawyer argued audio recording of the sexual encounter sounded like the victim was enjoying herself.
Shahn Lefoe, 27, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday charged over the August incident in Point Cook where his defence barrister argued he thought the victim was 21 and the sex consensual.
“[The victim] presents as mature,” barrister Carly Marcs Lloyd said.
“The recording doesn’t sound like she was forced.”
Detective Senior Constable Jarrad Brookman, from the Westgate Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team, told the court that the pair had met at a gathering in August.
There, in the lounge room of the home, Mr Lefoe allegedly whispered in the girl’s ear “do you play with doodles?”
Senior Constable Brookman said the victim reported having a “bad vibe” about the accused and began recording the encounter on a mobile phone hidden in her jumper.
“In the lounge room she advises [Mr Lefoe] that she is 12 years old. He grabbed her vagina [and] she told him not to touch her,” Senior Constable Brookman said.
Mr Lefoe then led the victim to a secluded park where he allegedly penetrated her vaginally and orally for more than 20 minutes.
Shortly after, the victim reported the alleged sexual abuse to family who contacted police.
“He made full admissions but said it was consensual and that he believed the victim was 21 years old,” Senior Constable Brookman said.
The 27-year-old was later charged with sexual penetration and sexual abuse of a child under 16.
Ms Marcs Lloyd told the court that the victim was sexually mature for her age, according to medical reports, was tall and not obviously 12.
But during questioning by the defence, Senior Constable Brookman repeated several times that the victim had the appearance of a 12-year-old.
Magistrate Kieran Gilligan said without a photograph of the victim he was unable to verify whether the child looked more like a 12-year-old or 21-year-old, as stated by the accused.
Senior Constable Brookman said the accused was living in Australia on a special category visa after moving to Melbourne in late 2018 to live with his parents in Point Cook.
The police officer opposed bail and said the accused was a “significant flight risk” if released on bail and could also be hauled into immigration detention if his visa was subsequently revoked.
Once there, Mr Lefoe was at risk of applying to be sent back to New Zealand before facing criminal proceedings.
Mr Lefoe cried in court as his father gave evidence about why he should be released.
His barrister Ms Marcs Lloyd argued her client should be released on bail so he could continue working as a carpenter in the Point Cook area.
Mr Gilligan granted Mr Lefoe bail on the conditions he report to Werribee police station daily, not leave the country and reside at his parent’s address.
“He’s not an unacceptable risk in my view,” Mr Gilligan said.
The matter will return to court later this month.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).