child groomer walks free despite guilty plea

A child groomer is back on the streets under a two-year suspended prison sentence despite a judge rejecting claims the crimes were a joke.

John Francis Winter, 74, will walk free as a registered sex offender and be supervised by corrective services for the next two years.

Winter pleaded guilty to grooming a person to make it easier to engage in sexual activity with a child outside Australia, after he was arrested by Australian Border Force when he returned from Vietnam last year.

Winter’s defence counsel had claimed he was “just joking” and¬†“seeing how far it would go”, and had only pleaded guilty to avoid a costly trial.

In one exchange with a facilitator called “Eva”, whom Winter met on Cupid Vietnam, he attempted to procure sex with a 12-year-old

Handing down the sentence in Melbourne’s County Court on Thursday, Judge Andrew Tinney was unmoved by the claim Winter’s efforts were a joke.

“Your guilty plea is inconsistent, totally inconsistent with this communication being some joke,” Justice Tinney told the court.

“You have admitted by your plea that you’re acting with intent to make it easier to procure a child to engage in sexual activity.”

Judge Tinney further questioned the claims in the man’s interactions with Eva, who was based in the Philippines and said she was in contact with “talent”.

“What was there to suggest she would not act on your request to track down a child?” Judge Tinney asked.

“She was plainly not in a strong financial position, and you of course, were wielding what seemed to be the power of the western dollar, whatever your financial state in this country.”

Winter will not be allowed to leave Victoria for two years without permission from the community corrections officer and will be required to attend a sex offender treatment and rehabilitation programs.

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