Underage sex woman avoids jail

Jamie Berry
May 2, 2007 - 11:44AM

Underage sex woman avoids jail

A 30-year-old woman convicted of having sex with a boy under the age of 16 has escaped a jail term after a judge suspended her sentence over what he called her "foolish lapse".

Judge Lance Pilgrim convicted and sentenced Diana Nicole Bennett on a single charge after she pleaded guilty in the County Court to one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16.

He sentenced her to 12 months' jail, suspended for 18 months.

"This is a serious offence," Judge Pilgrim said. "I have no difficulty categorising your offence as a foolish lapse."

Judge Pilgrim said that Bennett had been "totally open and frank" with police and had taken "significant steps" to rehabilitate herself.

Bennett refused to comment when she left court.

In January 2005, Bennett, a voluntary worker, then 28, had sex with the boy who had telephoned her at home one morning and invited her to his house.

They had been friends for about six months and that the boy had earlier promised to give her a kiss for Christmas, the court heard.

After the Department of Human Resources notified police from a sexual offences and child abuse unit in February, 2005, the boy declined to make a statement, as did his parents.

Prosecutor Bill Dwyer said in his summary that Bennett later admitted she had a problem with binge drinking and on that morning she was drunk from the night before. Mr Dwyer said Bennett, who usually drank three bottles of vodka neat a week, told police she only took up the boy's invitation because she was drunk.

The pair began fondling each other and undressed before having sex, which was interrupted when a friend of the boy - who later approached police - entered the room. Bennett said in a record of interview with police that she saw herself as being like an older sister to the boy and was "flattered someone of his age found her sexually attractive".

Defence lawyer Richard Backwell said at the time Bennett was a depressed, lonely and vulnerable alcoholic who had sought "attention, adoration and admiration". He said three weeks after the incident, she voluntarily contacted police to make full admissions without which a case could not have been mounted.

Mr Backwell submitted that while there were similarities in the cases of Bennett and Ellis - the boys were similarly aged and each woman was previously of good character and remorseful - his client's offence was not premeditated.

theage.com.au, with Steve Butcher