A volunteer soccer coach who sexually abused seven boys on over 150 occasions sat expressionless on Friday as he was sentenced to spend at least 20 years behind bars.
Grant Harden, 31 from St Clair, was arrested in 2020 as part of the Australian Federal Police’s largest-ever child abuse sting that also netted 25 other alleged paedophiles that were sharing child abuse material they had created on social media and forums.
Police found thousands of images and videos on Harden’s multiple phones of child abuse material featuring “real unidentified children”, including a number of him abusing boys aged as young as two in a variety of circumstances over several years until his arrest in May 2020.
Harden put himself in positions where he would have access to boys, the District Court heard at his sentencing on Friday.
Harden used at least four different online accounts on a number of social media platforms and online forums to swap images of him abusing boys with other men doing the same.
Much of the abuse described in court is too graphic to be detailed by the Herald.
Harden pleaded guilty last year to multiple counts of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10, sexual touching of a child under 10 and using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse.
A number of his victims’ parents sat through a harrowing summary of the abuse in the District Court on Friday, crying as Judge Sarah Huggett handed down a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 22 years.
Several victims were described as “angry”, “confused” and “lonely” in the wake of Harden’s abuse; the court also heard of the dismay of two parents who will one day have to explain to their son, who was too young to recall the abuse, that there are child abuse images of him online.
It took one child a year to understand that his abuse at the hands of a trusted adult was not his fault, the court heard.
Harden, who has been diagnosed with pedophilic disorder, told a psychologist after his arrest that he had been sexually abused as a child by a family member. Huggett found this did not reduce his moral culpability, saying he committed the abuse knowing it was wrong.
Harden has an above-average risk of offending, the court heard, with “psychological and biological” treatment required to prevent recidivism.
Due to time already spent in custody, he will be eligible for parole in May 2042.