Ex-mayor of Ballarat suburb jailed for 'wanton and callous' child sex offences

Graham Collins, 77, was mayor of Sebastopol three times.
Graham Collins, 77, was mayor of Sebastopol three times.

Former Sebastopol Borough mayor Graham Bruce Collins will spend at least two years and 10 months behind bars for “wanton, callous” child sex offences.

Melbourne Country Court Judge James Montgomery on Tuesday sentenced the 77-year-old to a total of four years imprisonment for four offences.

It included one count of sexual penetration of a child and three counts of indecent acts with a child under 16.

Collins’ 49 days time served was included in the sentence. The court heard during sentencing that Collins was known to the victim before the abuse started.

Judge Montgomery said he had shown no remorse for the crimes.

“Your actions were wanton, callous and without thought of any consequences for the victim and (the child’s) family,” he said.

“You took advantage of (the child’s) trust and (the) parents.

“As you maintain your innocence, I have no explanation from you.”

The offending occurred in 2015 and 2016 when Collins was 75.

The victim’s mother said it was galling to hear people speak of Collins’ good character in court.

“You are in there and all you hear about him is what a great person he is and you aren’t allowed to say anything,” she said.

“They said he was a pillar of the community, well so is my (child), he is no pillar to my community.

“My (child) still has a lot of nightmares.”

Collins appeared via video link in the Ballarat County Court.

There were several mitigating factors taken in to account during sentencing.

“You have lived an otherwise blamess life,” Judge Montgomery said.

He also said Collins’ consistent work record, honourary membership with the Country Fire Authority and three terms as Sebastopol Borough mayor were taken into account.

Health issues presented in a report to the court on Thursday last week were also considered.

Judge Montgomery said Collins had the support of his family and children.

“I am required to balance the interest of the community in denouncing criminal conduct with the rehabilitation of offenders into society,” he said.

“Your offending doesn’t go back many years – I’m amazed anyone would indulge in this behaviour and expect to get away with it.

“I accept your rehabilitation prospects are good and you are unlikely to reoffend.”

The victim’s mother said the abuse had left her (child) with anxiety, although (the child) was now doing well.

“(My child’s) trust is gone… after it was reported, (my child) was scared he was going to try pick (my child) up from school,” she said.

“If I had to go quickly up to the shops, (my child) had to come.

“(My child) got ripped from her home.”

A jury found Collins guilty of the four charges in June.

He was also acquitted of a further four charges of committing an decent act with a child under 16.

The sentence included 18 months imprisonment for two of the indecent act with a child charges, and 12 months for the third offence.

Six months were ordered to be served cumulatively.

He received a three-year jail term for the sexual penetration of a child charge.

Collins was also ordered to be placed on the sex offenders register.

A sign bearing his name at a CFA running track at Sebastopol’s Marty Busch Reserve was removed last month.

Collins was also awarded a Fire Service Medal on Australia Day in 2002.

The Governor General’s office said it was the responsibility of the state government’s office to recommend the stripping of meritorious awards.