A Victorian man who raped a 12-year-old girl he met at a rollerskating rink and claimed it was consensual has been jailed for almost nine years.
Daniel Clifton was aged 18 when he met the girl at the Rollerway Skate Centre in Geelong's Newtown and began grooming her in 2014.
He was one of the better skaters at the rink and the child developed a crush on him, which he took advantage off, Melbourne's County Court heard on Wednesday.
Clifton gave her lifts home from skating on Friday and Saturday nights, because her parents couldn't, which made her dependent on him. He also gifted the child a necklace and earrings.
Over 12 months, between February 2014 and 2015, Clifton sexually assaulted and raped the girl on seven separate occasions in his car and at his parent's house in Lara.
Clifton, now 27, contested the charges and the matter went to trial earlier this year. A jury found him guilty of 15 offences in August, including rape and multiple counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16.
He faced the court by video link from custody on Wednesday, supported by his parents who also appeared remotely.
Judge Peter Rozen sentenced him to eight years and 10 months in prison.
"The vulnerability of the victim was significant, she was only 12 years of age," Judge Rozen told the court.
"There was a significant gap in age ... you were at least six years older than her and had been in previous relationships of a sexual nature.
"You knew what you were doing was very wrong."
The court heard Clifton's lawyers had argued his relationship with the child was consensual, which they claimed put his offending at mid-range.
Judge Rozen rejected this, as the child was much younger than the age of sexual consent.
"The question of consent is irrelevant," he said.
"The law reflects the community's view that it is not until the age of 16 that a child has the psychological maturity and decision-making competence to agree to sexual activity."
Clifton, who has already served almost three months of his sentence, must spend a minimum of five years and 10 months in prison before he can apply for parole. He will be registered as a sex offender for life.
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