A judge has commended the “vigilance and tenacity” of a mother who intervened to save a small child from a “chilling” abduction outside a primary school in regional Victoria.
Ian Hooper, 65, of Mildura, has been jailed for six years over the abduction and sexual assault of a six-year-old girl outside a primary school, just 350 metres from his home.
The County Court heard Hooper went to the school on his mobility scooter one afternoon last December and approached the girl, who he did not know.
He told her to get on the scooter and began to assault her as he rode away.
But a mother at the school to collect her own children noticed Hooper with the girl and stepped in to take her to safety.
Hooper was arrested later that day at his home and, while he initially denied assaulting the child, he eventually admitted his intention had been to take her to his house.
Hooper also told police he “felt like doing this for a little while” and “got a little girl because [he] couldn’t get a big one”.
‘Medium to high risk’ of reoffending
Judge Gregory Lyon said Hooper’s actions were “extremely serious and the stuff of nightmares for all parents”.
“The community must be grateful for the vigilance and tenacity of the witness who saw you and confronted you the moment she saw you,” Judge Lyon said.
Judge Lyon also said the child’s parents were to be commended for arranging swift counselling for their daughter after the incident, but he noted the long-term effects of the abduction may not yet be known.
Hooper was assessed by two psychologists after pleading guilty and was found to lack insight into the ramifications of what he had done to the girl.
The court heard Hooper had suffered abuse as a child, had two strokes in his 40s, may suffer from an undiagnosed intellectual disability, and had an acquired brain injury.
Hooper had no previous convictions for sex crimes, but forensic psychologist Michael Davis found there was a medium to high risk he would reoffend in the future.
Dr Davis said Hooper would likely need to be placed in residential care on his release “with safeguards to ensure he cannot target elderly persons”.
Hooper, who will not be eligible for parole until December 2023, was also placed on the sex offender register for eight years.
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