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Sydney man who tried to groom 13-year-old for sex escapes jail

A baby-faced Sydney man who attempted to groom a 13-year-old girl for sex and was found with a cache of vile child abuse material has escaped being sent to jail.

Zane Clark, 20, was on Friday afternoon released to serve his sentence in the community despite admitting to sending a teenage victim a barrage of sexually-charged messages and asking her how long until they could have sex.

Police also found a cache of child abuse material when they raided his Maroubra home in April 2021.

Clark was facing up to 15 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to a string of offences and confessed to pursuing a teenage girl he met online.

But in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Friday afternoon, Judge Gina O’Rourke sentenced him to serve his three-year sentence in the community.

Sydney man Zane Clark escaped being jailed.
Camera IconSydney man Zane Clark escaped being jailed. Credit: Supplied

Clark pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to procure a child under 16 for unlawful sexual activity.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse material and using a carriage service to transmit/publish child abuse material.

In handing down her sentence on Friday, Judge O’Rourke told the court of how Clark had used a messaging app to approach the girl before he quickly turned the conversation towards sexual matters.

“Are you ever sexual?” he asked the girl.

The girl told him that she was 13-years-old and the court heard he was fully aware of how old she was.

In another message he told the girl “I’ll be sent to jail” if he was caught.

He asked the girl to date him and told her it was “hard not to be turned on around you”.

He asked her to share pictures of herself and appear on a video call.

Clark sent the girl a shirtless pic of himself, telling her “I don’t care about age”.

“How long will we date before we start doing naughty stuff? Gotta make a choice bub … I’m a guy, I can’t wait forever,” he told her.

“Can you give me a time so I can get somewhat excited?”

In other messages he told her that he wished he could see her body and “If you love me more you would have shown me your body on Skype that time”

Their interactions ended when the girl stopped replying to his messages.

Drug Raid
Camera IconZane Clark (with jacket over head) shielded his identity when he left court on a previous occasion. NewsWire/Monique Harmer. Credit: News Corp Australia

He came on the radar of police in March 2020 when the 13-year-old girl’s aunt made a report to police.

Australian Federal Police officers raided his home and officers found three phones containing child abuse material.

The court heard details of the horrific images and videos, which are too vile and graphic to publish, with some estimated to depict children as young as five to seven engaged in sexual acts, posing naked and urinating.

He also sent messages to an unknown person asking for pictures of children and sent two pictures of naked girls.

He told the other user he was interested in material involving children “10 or younger”, the court heard.

Judge O’Rourke described him as having participated in the “evil” and “pernicious” child abuse material trade.

“It involved real children and the age of the children involved is young,” she said.

He was facing a maximum penalty of 15 years however Judge O’Rourke took into account his troubled and neglected childhood and mental health conditions including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and developmental disorders.

She also said a fulltime custodial sentence was likely to negatively impact his prospects of rehabilitation.

Clark was sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment.

However he was released on a recognisance order which required him to be of good behaviour, be under the supervision of a parole officer and enter into rehabilitation and treatment programs.

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