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Scout master Mark Anthony Leonard-Major jailed for grooming boy for sex

A scout headmaster from Brisbane is the first person to be jailed in Queensland under new laws that make it a crime to groom a child for sex.
Mark Anthony Leonard-Major, 29, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday to procuring a teenage boy to engage in a sexual act between September 1 and October 17, 2013.
Crown prosecutor Katrina Overell said Leonard-Major met and struck up a friendship at a Brisbane scout group where he was a headmaster.
She said the relationship became sexualised when the accused began to make comments and gestures towards the boy, even buying him a mobile phone so they could text one another in secret.
The court heard Leonard-Major instructed the boy to delete any text messages between them.
Ms Overell said the clandestine relationship, played out in part in 86 text messages over 13 days, was unearthed when the phone was discovered by the child’s mother.
She said the boy was interviewed by police on October 18, 2013 when he detailed the sexualised nature of his friendship with Leonard-Major.
The court heard the pair went on an errand for a scout camp gathering when Leonard-Major told the boy he was ``the hottest 14-year-old he’d ever seen’’.
When the boy went to Leonard-Major for advice about breaking up with his girlfriend, the headmaster told him: ``Does this mean you and I have a chance now?’’
The boy told police he was gifted a phone and instructed to delete the messages between them, which variously described the boy as ``sexy’’, ``babe’’, ``sexy legs’’ and ``sexy guy’’.
The boy hid the phone from his parents and told police he felt uncomfortable but ``went along with it’’ because he wanted to keep his position at the Scout group.
In text messages, Leonard-Major told the boy on October 3: ``Hey sexy guy, thought I’d make sure I was your first text, just imagine your hands in my pocket, what would you do back?’’
He gave the boy a leather bracelet as a present at a Scout group function just days before the behaviour was unveiled.
Ms Overell said Leonard-Major used ``flattery and gifts’’ to build trust.
Defence lawyer Peter Davies, for Leonard-Major, tendered 10 references on his client’s behalf as well as a psychologist report detailing his remorse and contrition.
He said it was an early plea and submitted the case was at the lower end of the scale in terms of seriousness and took place over a very short period of time.
Mr Davies said the behaviour was ``totally out of character’’ for Leonard-Major, who had a long and proud history as a trusted volunteer and leader within the Scout movement.
He said his client was bullied as a child and when he saw the complainant child was also bullied, he ``took him under his wing and a friendship developed’’.
Mr Davies said Leonard-Major had no sexual interest in children and had been diagnosed with significant abandonment issues because of his family history, low self-esteem and as a result of a violent assault committed against him as a teenager.
Magistrate Ann Thacker said Leonard-Major’s offending was serious because it was conducted in secret and he used his position of power and age discrepancy to exploit the boy.
``It’s made very serious by the fact that you were a scout master and he was a young boy who wanted to be a scout,’’ she said.
``It’s made the more serious because you were in that position and the second thing about it, is that it was a scout group. Now, many things have been said in the community about the vulnerabilities of children subject to scout masters and to the extent more recently that people do withdraw their children from these activities for fear of what might happen in precisely the circumstances … that you engaged in when you were procuring this young boy to engage in a sexual act.’’
She said Leonard-Major had not shown cause for why he was an exceptional case who should not be subject to jail time.
Ms Thacker sentenced Leonard-Major to 12-months jail, to be released on a suspended-sentence after two-months served.
Leonard-Major did not turn to look at his family, who were sobbing, as he was lead into the cells.
The law making it a criminal offence to groom a child was introduced in Queensland on 29 April 2013, has a maximum penalty of five years jail and makes it mandatory for offenders to serve a period in custody without exceptional circumstances that would make it unjust.

www.news.com.au (16-4-2014)

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