Sterling Free was jailed over the kidnapping and molestation of a seven-year-old girl from a North Lakes shopping centre
Sterling Free was jailed over the kidnapping and molestation of a seven-year-old girl from a North Lakes shopping centre

AG wins appeal against Kmart kidnapper’s sentence

THE Attorney General has won an appeal against the "manifestly inadequate" sentence handed to a predator who kidnapped a little girl from Kmart and molested her.

Sterling Free, 28, was last year handed a head sentence of eight years' jail with parole eligibility in August 2021 after pleading guilty to taking the child for an immoral purpose from Kmart at North Lakes in December 2018.

But the Attorney General appealed the sentence, saying while the eight-year head sentence was appropriate, Free should have either been declared a serious violent offender which would require him to serve 80 per cent of the sentence behind bars, or alternatively that the judge should not have set parole eligibility after Free has served one third of the sentence, meaning he would instead become eligible for parole after serving half of the jail term.

Sterling Free was jailed over the kidnapping and molestation of a seven-year-old girl from a North Lakes shopping centre
Sterling Free was jailed over the kidnapping and molestation of a seven-year-old girl from a North Lakes shopping centre

The Court of Appeal today granted the appeal, keeping the head sentence of eight years imprisonment but with no recommendation for eligibility for parole.

"That is a just and appropriate way in which to take account of the positive mitigating factors in this case and appropriately balances punishment, denunciation, deterrence, community protection and rehabilitation," the appeal judges found.

"A further reduction in the time to be served before becoming eligible for parole is not justified, given the very serious nature of the offending, and the need to send a strong message of denunciation of, and deterrence against, offending of this kind.

"In a case of this kind, the mitigating effect of a guilty plea and cooperation, whilst still deserving of tangible recognition, must yield to other factors, such as denunciation and community protection."

 

A screen shot of the CCTV of Sterling Free leaving the shopping centre with the little girl .
A screen shot of the CCTV of Sterling Free leaving the shopping centre with the little girl .

 

During the appeal hearing earlier this month, Crown Prosecutor Carl Heaton QC argued Free's parole eligibility date had been set too early and the community expected courts to order longer periods in jail for those who abuse children in such a horrific way.

He said a psychologist report showed Free had a long history of struggling with a lack of impulse control.

He said this lack of self-control, a pornography addiction and a diagnosis of paedophilia caused him to act on his urges, even though he knew it was wrong and later told police that.

"It increased his vulnerability to engage in impulsive and reckless behaviour with no consideration of the consequences," Mr Heaton said.

Originally published as AG wins appeal against Kmart kidnapper's sentence



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