BANDIANA army private Nathan John Flanigan has lost his career and his freedom for grooming three teenage girls for sexual activity after sending each of them a large number of text messages.
Flanigan, 27, was jailed for 16 months, with a minimum of seven months, when he appeared for sentencing in Albury Local Court yesterday.
He had been found guilty in April following a defended hearing.
His solicitor, Mark Cronin, said Flanigan’s employment with the army had been formally terminated on July 9 and he had returned to live with his parents at Wagga.
Mr Cronin described Flanigan as “a naive young man” who had already suffered a significant penalty through losing his career.
But Director of Public Prosecutions representative Andrew Hanshaw said it was paramount that children be protected from sexual abuse.
“There is no indication of remorse or contrition,” Mr Hanshaw said.
He said Flanigan actively pursued the girls, bombarded them with text messages and twice went to a town near Albury at night seeking to have sex with two of them.
Magistrate Tony Murray said a psychologist’s report indicated Flanigan was a medium to high risk of re-offending and directed he accept counselling.
His offending came to light after a girl, 13, her mother and stepfather went to the police station in Albury last year.
The girl told a detective she knew Flanigan and had his mobile phone number listed on her phone under the name “creep”.
Flanigan sent a naked photo of himself with an erect penis to the girl about 5.30pm on February 14 with a message the same day saying: “You want sex”.
Many text messages were sent to two other girls, aged 14 and 15, who live in the same town as the younger girl.
The court was told Flanigan, who pleaded not guilty to the grooming charges, sent 191 text messages to one girl in a 14-day period, 406 to another girl in seven days and 82 in a 24-hour period to the third girl.
Flanigan made a round trip from his base to the town to hang out at a park, play on swings and take part in hide-and-seek with the girls.
He claimed in his police interview the girls thought it was all a bit of a laugh and they were leading him on.
Flanigan admitted sending the naked photo and told detectives: “I just made a mistake and sent a photo.”
There was evidence during the hearing that Flanigan was aware of the girls’ ages and he made a concession in his interview about “flirting” with them.