Vic man who preyed on Filipino kids jailed

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An Australian man who paid an impoverished 13-year-old Filipino girl $38 to perform an indecent act on camera while he recorded the video has been jailed.

Phillip Cooper on Wednesday faced the Victorian County Court, where he was sentenced to a total of four years and one month behind bars.

The 61-year-old had pleaded guilty to five charges, including encouraging sexual intercourse with a child under 16 outside Australia, engaging in sexual activity with a child, and the possession of child abuse material.

Cooper, then based at Barnawartha, about three hours northeast of Melbourne, directed a 13-year-old girl in the Philippines to remove her clothes and sexually touch herself during a 24-minute recorded video conversation in March 2019.

"She told you directly that she was hungry and that her mother was unable to afford the food she wanted," Judge Justin Hannebery said.

"You used her hunger and her poverty as leverage to get a child to engage in sexual activity with you in exchange for 38 dollars.

"There existed a gross power imbalance between you because of your age and relative economic circumstances. You blatantly exploited this situation for your own sexual gratification."

The court heard that this girl was later removed from her family home by Filipino authorities after they discovered her mother's involvement in the offence.

"Phil destroyed my life," she said in a statement.

Cooper has since paid her $40,000 in compensation.

Judge Hannebery said this demonstrated an element of remorse, but would not heal her pain and suffering.

Cooper in October 2019 also sought and received child abuse images from the mother of two girls aged 11 and 12 years old.

This woman also said she needed money for food.

"You have been capable of placing your own sexual gratification above any consideration for the welfare of children," Judge Hannebery told Cooper.

"You appear, at best, indifferent to their circumstances. You were prepared to exploit their hunger and poverty for your own purposes.

"The nature of this offending means wherever there is an internet connection available, an opportunity to offend exists."

Border Force arrested Cooper at Melbourne Airport upon his return from Manila in November 2019.

He told them he went to the Philippines every two weeks and met girls there through social media or online dating websites.

Cooper said he had never had sex with children under 18 years old and knew it was illegal.

"You don't groom children in the Philippines - they groom you," he told police.

"They'll manipulate you, cheat you, pickpocket you ... it's prolific. It's quite amazing ... a girl in the Philippines will do anything for 30 bucks."

Cooper, now a registered sex offender for life, must serve at least two years and six months behind bars before being eligible for parole.

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