Slept with 15-year-old girl, avoids sex offender registry
YOUNG Isaac region mining worker who had sex with a 15-year-old girl has avoided being placed on the sex offender registry.
Caleb James Melchert-Hiles, 18, sparked up a consensual relationship with the girl over Facebook, a court was told.
The girl sneaked out of her parent's home at night on three occasions earlier this year to meet Melchert-Hiles and the pair had unprotected sex.
But the illicit relationship came to a halt when the girl's father caught her dressed in normal clothes, rather than pyjamas, while she was sneaking out to see a friend one night.
The girl's mother checked her daughter's phone hours later and found text messages, some explicit, from Melchert-Hiles.
Despite the girl's protests, her father confronted Melchert-Hiles, who initially denied the relationship before making some admissions and going to police ahead of charges being laid.
Melchert-Hiles - who ended up in a mental health ward for about a week after being discovered - begged the girl's dad to "hit him", rather than reporting his actions to police.
The dad dismissed that offer and Melchert-Hiles landed before Mackay District Court on Thursday for sentencing on a string of serious offences, supported by his father.
Melchert-Hiles, who had no prior criminal history, pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful carnal knowledge of a child under 16 and one count of permitting indecent dealing with a child under 16, dated to early this year.
As the case progressed, Melchert-Hiles showed little emotion.
Crown prosecutor Joshua Hanna gave the agreed facts to Judge Paul Smith, said the relationship has been consensual and Melchert-Hiles was also of a relatively young age.
He submitted probation was an appropriate penalty considering the circumstances.
Meanwhile, defence barrister Bronwyn Hartigan described Melchert-Hiles' relationship with the girl as "gentle and respectful", as opposed to coercive or predatory.
But she noted the laws Melchert-Hiles broke were in place to protect those under the age of consent from themselves.
Ms Hartigan, who was instructed by Fisher Dore Lawyers, stressed her client's young age and said the unprotected sex only occurred after Melchert-Hiles and the girl discussed using the "withdrawal method" as contraception.
Later, Judge Smith indicated it was likely Melchert-Hiles, who has a new partner, had been more or less just as mature as the girl he had sex with, despite the age difference.
Judge Smith agreed with a submission by Ms Hartigan that a conviction should not be recorded, due to exceptional circumstances.
"You were 18 years and two months old at the time. She was 15 and a half," he said.
"There were early pleas of guilty here, it was a consensual relationship. There was no great age disparity - I don't think this was predatory behaviour.
"I think you were pretty immature, probably close to her mental age, at the time.
"I think it's exceptional, I don't think a jail sentence is warranted in this case."
Judge Smith placed Melchert-Hiles on probation for a year and did not record a conviction.