A Warrnambool man has been jailed for six years for having sex with his step-daughter over two years.
The man, who cannot be named because that would identify the victim, was found guilty by a jury in the Ballarat County Court of two counts of sexual assault of a child aged under 16 years and one count of sexual penetration of a step child.
He was jailed for six years, with a minimum of four years to be served before being eligible for parole.
The maximum penalty for incest is 25 years' imprisonment.
The man has served 86 days pre-sentence detention and will now be a registered sex offender for 15 years.
Judge Anne Hassan said the offending was alleged to have happened over two years and the defendant was found guilty of three charges which related to one incident.
She said sexual offending against children was always serious and the man was supposed to love and care for his step daughter, not use his position in the family to abuse her and exploit her over a period of two years.
The judge found the defendant's moral culpability was serious and high.
"I must send a clear and unequivocal message that the sexual abuse of children will not be tolerated by the courts," she said.
"You must never behave in this way again."
The court heard that almost 10 years ago the man started a relationship with the victim's mother.
Late in that relationship the girl would get in bed with the man on numerous occasions and after Easter in 2021 the man kissed his step daughter, touched her intimately and had sex with her.
In a victim impact statement the victim said she had carried a horrible secret for much of her childhood.
She said she suffered extreme mood swings, suicidal thoughts and was unable to express her feelings.
"I don't know what I'm feeling half the time. I'm afraid I don't have a personality," she said in the statement.
Her mother said she was heartbroken, doubted her parenting ability and addressing her and her daughter's issues led to the family being evicted and homeless.
She said they had now been rehoused away from family and friends.
The mother said he daughter had multiple episodes of self-harm with suicidal thoughts and she dreaded come home from work and finding her daughter dead.
The offender grew up in Warrnambool and experiences during his life led him to suffer anxiety, depression, PTSD and a back injury.
A mental health report indicated the man was a low to moderate risk of reoffending.
He had no prior court appearances.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; MensLine 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636; 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732.
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