Grooming charges dropped against convicted paedophile after pleading guilty to sex offenders register breach

A convicted paedophile has been freed from jail by the ACT Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to breaching his obligations under the Child Sex Offenders Register.

Benjamin Hugh Smith, 38, had been in jail since May when he was accused of attempting to groom two young boys at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) pool.

But today, prosecutors dropped the charges when Smith pleaded guilty to two other offenses related to the register.

The court heard he was convicted of a child sexual offense in New South Wales in 2017, and given a 20-month suspended sentence.

The conviction meant that he was placed on the register, which required him to tell police if he changed his address or his car, and if he joined a club or had been in the vicinity of children.

The court heard he had initially cooperated when he moved to the ACT, telling police where he was.

But he later breached the rules when he bought a 20-pass ticket to the AIS pool, and also refused to provide the police with the pass code to his phone.

By the time of his arrest, the court heard he had used 19 of the visits.

His lawyer, Daniel Turner, told the court Smith had found jail difficult since he was housed with prisoners, during a time when COVID-19 infections were high.

“It has not been an easy period for my client,” Mr Turner said.

But prosecutor Sam Bargwanna said Smith had known what he was doing and a message needed to be sent to other offenders that they had to report to authorities.

Magistrate James Stewart said the rules were there for a good reason to protect the community.

But he agreed with Mr Turner that Smith had spent enough time in jail and sentenced him to 100 days for each offence, structuring the time to end today.

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