Man planned sex with children in ‘explicit detail’
AN ELDERLY Ipswich man has been sentenced to six years' jail for attempting to procure children in the Philippines for sex.
Ipswich District Court on Wednesday heard Lester Shelton, 82, made three trips to the Philippines after getting in contact with the children's mothers and other women online, and was about to travel there again when he was arrested and charged.
Shelton, a married father of adult children, was aged in his late 70s when the 50 offences occurred over a period of three years between 2014 and 2017.
In the Commonwealth prosecution case Lester Gilmore Shelton, from Basin Pocket, pleaded guilty to 19 charges of using a carriage service to solicit child pornography; 11 charges of preparing for, or planning sexual abuse of children outside of Australia and eight charges of planning sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia.
He also pledged guilty to three counts of procuring a child to engage in sexual activity outside of Australia; eight charges of causing/encouraging a child (aggravated) to have sexual intercourse with a person in a position of trust outside of Australia; two counts of encouraging the offence to cause a child to engage in sexual intercourse with a person outside of Australia; encourage/cause a child to have sexual intercourse with a person in a position of trust or authority outside of Australia; possession of child pornography (20 images); and use a carriage service to transmit/make available child pornography material.
There was no evidence before the court to suggest Shelton did have sex with any children - instead the court hearing that he had not been successful and that some women in their communications were likely leading him on to receive money from him.
Commonwealth prosecutor Sophie Harburg said Shelton was charged after his two mobile phones were seized in October 2017 and an examination of his Facebook Messenger communications was carried out.
Ms Harburg said Shelton had communications with eight Filippino women and directly spoke with two children.
The sexualised conversations with the girls were of a very disturbing nature, Ms Harburg said.
She said he set out to plan sexual abuse of up to 17 children during his month-long visits to the Philippines.
He went there in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and was about to go again in 2017 when arrested.
Ms Harburg said he had been in contact with women, some of them the mothers of the girls, and Shelton received child exploitation material involving two children aged 5 and 6.
The court heard he retained 18 images of the two girls.
There were also naked images of two other unidentified girls.
"He transferred one image to an Ipswich man, a friend of his," Ms Harburg said.
"There is no evidence that sexual activity did occur on his visits in 2015 and 2016 despite his plans to make such arrangements.
"This is still a serious example of encouraging and planning, and the fact that there is no evidence it did occur does not take away from that."
Ms Harburg said Shelton was persistent, paying money and promising gifts.
She said he made plans "where the mother and child were to stay with him for a month and it would involve sexual activity".
"Plans of his abuse were discussed in detail. It was explicit," she said.
Ms Harburg said he told one woman (in preparation for his planned visit in 2017) that he would not be paying in advance, saying "i will pay when I get there. Will pay when I leave".
Judge Dennis Lynch QC said the communications indicated the women may have been "stringing him along, seeing it as an opportunity to make money", and with no evidence any sexual activities actually took place.
Defence barrister Scott Neaves argued that because of his age, lack of criminal history, mobility issues with very poor health, and low likelihood of reoffending, a jail term of no more than five years should be imposed as this would likely take him very close to the end of his life.
"The true position is Mr Shelton is not a risk to the community now or ever again," Mr Neaves said.
Judge Lynch sentenced Shelton to a six-year jail term, making him eligible to apply for parole after he serves 18 months.
He outlined the various offences, saying the communications revealed "graphic" talk of planned sexual activity with children, sexual activity between the women and their children, and discussion of payment.
Judge Lynch said some of the communication reveals his planning of persistent sex abuse of children outside of Australia.
Judge Lynch said Shelton at first denied his sexual intentions were real and claimed they were "a fantasy".
"I find you do have sexual interest in prepubescent children," he said.
"Your preparation demonstrates a clear sexual interest in children. You were prepared to pay for that experience."
Shelton will be eligible to begin his application for parole from May 24, 2022.