Jail for Melbourne man who traveled the world to treat and abuse underage girls

A 43-year-old man will spend at least six years behind bars after being convicted of treating and sexually assaulting teenage girls around the world, including a 14-year-old girl in the Victoria area.

Luke Coughlan, of Melbourne, was convicted of 11 sexual abuse offenses, including producing child abuse material and preparing a child under 16 for sexual behavior.

The offenses were committed in Australia and abroad between 2013 and 2019.

While the charges relate to five victims, the court heard that Coughlan’s phone contained hundreds of images of other unidentified girls.

Melbourne County Court heard Coughlan approached his victims online when they were just 13 years old.

He then formed an online relationship with them, during which he took advantage of their vulnerabilities and prepared them for sexual activity.

Her first victim, who was based in the United States, was only 13 when he contacted her through the Omegle online chat site in 2010.

While chatting with the girl for several years, he asked her to perform sexual acts, which he recorded on his computer.

One of Coughlan’s victims (not pictured) has spoken of the heavy toll her offense has taken to her life.(PAA: Joe Castro)

The two engaged in BDSM and he asked her to engage in various sexual acts, while talking online, including inflicting pain on herself for her sexual gratification.

In 2013, when the girl was 17, he flew to the United States and met her. They made love and he recorded it.

The victim “feels completely alone”

Coughlan started talking to his second victim in late 2016, when she was 13.

The court heard he took advantage of the teenager’s low self-esteem by complimenting her and gaining her trust while they spoke online – actions designed to prepare her for sexual abuse.

In February 2017, when the girl was 14, Coughlan met her at a regional park in Victoria, where he slept with her in a motorhome.

Coughlan then asked him to send him pictures of herself naked with derogatory slogans written all over her body and pictures of her engaging in sexual activity.

In a victim impact statement, the young girl said her relationship with her mother had been significantly affected and her relationship with her father had completely deteriorated as a result of the abuse.

The court heard that the girl needed therapy and counseling and left the house.

She also said in a statement that she “often felt completely alone, very uncomfortable in her body” and “didn’t trust how she felt”.

Abuses have “catastrophic consequences”

Judge David Sexton said the offense should be considered “an extremely serious sexual offense in relation to children”.

He said Coughlan often went to great lengths to offend and that type of breach often had “lasting and catastrophic consequences”.

The court heard that in one case, Coughlan flew to Western Australia and tracked down a girl via the map tracking feature of the social media app Snapchat after trying to cut off their communications.

He threatened to kill himself in order to put pressure on the young girl to get back in touch with him.

Coughlan was convicted of 11 counts, including treating a child under the age of 16 for sexual behavior and having sex with a minor.

Coughlan was also convicted of using a transportation service to procure a minor for sexual purposes and several charges related to the creation, production and possession of child pornography.

He was sentenced to 9 years and 3 months in prison, with a 6-year non-parole period.

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