A WA dad found "grooming" messages on his daughter's phone. But police won't investigate.

“This guy could have written the book on paedophilia.”

When his 13-year-old daughter began incessantly chatting on her social media channels, Lachlan Smith* did what so many concerned parents have done: He checked her phone.

It soon became clear the Western Australian father had been right to be suspicious. What he found was the very sort of sickening exchange he’d dreaded — reams of messages from an older, married man “grooming” her for a sexual relationship.

WA News, which has viewed some of those messages, reports they show the 24-year-old man building the Perth girl’s trust, talking about hugging her, and even saying the thought of her gave him an erection.

All are typical behaviours of online child grooming, which involves befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child to lower the child’s inhibitions for sexual abuse.

The messages showed the 24-year-old man building the Perth girl’s trust, talking about hugging her, and even saying the thought of her gave him an erection.

“This guy could have written the book on paedophilia. It’s mindblowing,” a concerned Mr Smith told WA News of the sickening messages. “There were pages and pages on how tough his life is, threats of suicide, and my daughter comforting him, acting like a 27-year-old.

“I was broken. I couldn’t believe it.”

Mr Smith promptly took the exchanges to his teen daughter, who broke down and swore to cut off contact with the man.

But when Mr Smith contacted the police, authorities flat-out refused to investigate the disturbing exchanges.

While child grooming is a crime under Australian Federal law, and the various states and territories have their own laws on child sexual grooming, police told Mr Smith that there was no evidence of a crime unless the alleged predator made specific plans to meet up.

“I have been advised that police thoroughly investigated the allegation, however the investigations and the available evidence did not establish any offences, either under State or Commonwealth law,” Attorney General Michael Mischin confirmed.

“This guy could have written the book on paedophilia. It’s mindblowing.”

Mr Smith is now calling for law reform to prevent the man from preying on other young girls.

“The part that rattles me is that this could be happening to someone else – this piece of human rubbish is potentially getting someone else’s kid,” Mr Smith told WA News. “He’s not just keen on young girls, he’s actively engaging them.”

Mr Smith adds that while he doesn’t blame police, he says the current law is “a joke” — and says it’s time for law-makers to respond if they want to prevent this “potential monster” from escaping.

“If this can be a wake-up call for the community I don’t have a choice but to take this further,” he said.

In 2010, the Federal government introduced harsher penalities for grooming, meaning that offenders now face up to 15 years behind bars.


How do I know if my child is being groomed?

Grooming is an insidious process that “can be difficult to recognise or distinguish from seemingly innocuous actions,” ChildWise reports. However, it tends to involve building a trusting relationship with the child, and isolating the child in order to abuse them.

Online grooming strategies can include telling children and young people they are mature, encouraging private chats, calls or meetings, asking the young person to provide photos of themselves, using sexualising language or flattering them, according to the Office of the Children’s Safety eCommissioner reports.

Sometimes, predators use the identities of celebrities to lure young people into conversations online because of their popularity among targeted age groups; other times, adults pretend to be children to earn young people’s trust, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Warning signs that parents may notice include late-night, excessive or secretive computer use and changes in sexualised language and behaviour.

Children, as well as adults acting on behalf of children, can report abuse or illegal activity online by using the AFP’s online child sex exploitation form or by clicking on the Report Abuse button on the ThinkUKnow or Virtual Global Taskforce website.

Suspicious online behaviour can also be reported to police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

*A pseudonym has been used for legal reasons.