Jail for man who abused boy he met on Grindr dating app

A man who sexually abused a teenage boy he met on a dating app and then asked the boy to lie to police has been jailed.

Harley Shore met the teen on Grindr in 2017. The County Court was told the boy misled the app about his age to establish an account and made the initial contact with Shore.

When Shore commented that he looked young, the boy, then 14, told him he was 19, the court heard.

Soon after, the boy was shopping with his mother in country Victoria and sent Shore a message on Grindr. The pair agreed to meet at the public toilets after the teen told his mother he felt unwell.

Shore sexually abused the boy in the public toilets and then again over the following weeks, outside the boy’s home and at another secluded place.

Judge Liz Gaynor said Shore ceased contact with the boy after the third incident of abuse when he learned the boy was 15.

But months later, in June 2018, the boy had an argument with his parents and contacted Shore asking for a place to stay. Shore picked him up, drove him to his home and abused him.

Judge Gaynor said Shore, who was in his mid-20s, should have had a reasonable belief the boy was under-age given his appearance in a photograph online and in person. The prosecution case against Shore was that he continued abusing the teen after he learned of the boy’s true age.

Shore, now 29, was on Tuesday jailed for three years after pleading guilty to persistent sexual abuse of a child under 16. He must serve one year before he is eligible for parole.

On the night the boy went missing from his family home, the court heard his parents pinpointed his location by tracking his mobile phone. They then alerted police.

When officers arrived, they found the boy in Shore’s bed and told the man the teenager was 15, but the offender feigned surprise. He claimed he assumed the teen was 18 because he had a Grindr account.

Later that day, Shore rang the boy and stressed that their stories needed to match and urged the teen to tell police “what they needed to hear”.

Shore denied knowing the boy’s true age when interviewed, but made admissions when told his phone call had been recorded.

The boy chose not to file a victim impact statement, but Judge Gaynor said the offending had a terrible impact on his parents, who felt guilt at being unable to protect their son and endured stress over him undergoing a HIV test. The boy was suicidal after the abuse.

“It was clear they were both extremely distressed that their son had engaged in this sexual activity with you at such a young age,” Judge Gaynor told Shore.

“There is no doubt this offending had and continues to have an extremely distressing effect on them.”

Judge Gaynor said that while Shore’s offending was extremely serious, she acknowledged it was not predatory and found he did not pose a danger to the community.

She said Shore had been bullied as a child over his weight and sexuality, had also attempted suicide and had mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a recent diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Shore knew what he did was unlawful, the judge said, but was unable to appreciate the harm he caused the boy, even if he perceived there was consent. His mental health problems would make prison more onerous.

Judge Gaynor said offending such as Shore’s had devastating consequences on children at a critical phase in their emotional development, with the potential for harmful long-term effects.

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