Church youth group leader Michael Townsend jailed for sexual abuse of teenage sisters

ABC News
May 4, 2015

A former volunteer firefighter and church youth group leader who preyed on two young sisters for his own sexual gratification has been sentenced to at least 22 months' jail.

Michael James Townsend, 25, hardly reacted when he was handcuffed and taken into custody at Sydney's District Court for 14 offences involving the abuse of two sisters, aged 13 and 15.

The former Rural Fire Service volunteer leader claimed he did not think he was doing anything wrong when he sexually abused the girls because it did not involve penile vaginal penetration.

"I have difficultly accepting that explanation," Judge Peter Maiden said.

"To say he has been sheltered because he has been in a Christian environment in my mind does not and cannot properly explain what is said to be naivety on his part."

However, Judge Maiden said he could not make a finding that it was untrue.

The court heard Townsend had met the eldest victim at a party in November 2012 when he was 23 years old and she was 15.

By Easter Sunday he had invited her to his home and touched her inappropriately.

In another instance, he got her to perform oral sex while at a church.

In June 2013, Townsend began preying on the girl's 13-year-old sister, despite her pushing away his hands when he tried to touch her.

"Had not she been as strong as she was, I have no doubt he would have continued to develop the relationship as he had with her [older] sister," Judge Maiden said.

The girls' father contacted police, and Townsend was arrested in August 2013.

Judge Maiden accepted Townsend was unlikely to reoffend.

He said Townsend had pursued the sisters "for sexual gratification" and "fulfilment".

He gave Townsend a 25 per cent discount for his early plea and sentenced him to a maximum of two years and 11 months' jail.

Townsend will be eligible for parole in November 2016.


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