Awkward Kmart sex attack question
Today, a 27-year-old man who confessed to taking a seven-year-old girl from a Kmart toy aisle before sexually assaulting her will learn his fate.
Sterling Free - a father of twin girls - pleaded guilty in July to taking the girl from a store in Brisbane last December during Christmas shopping.
He drove the young girl to a secluded bushland area, about 30 minutes' drive away, where he sexually assaulted her.
About 90 minutes after the young victim disappeared, she was returned to the shopping centre - where she was left to walk through the shops alone, not knowing where her mother was. Free was arrested days after the incident
He has been in protective custody in prison ever since.
He pleaded guilty to taking a child for immoral purposes, indecent treatment of a child under 12 and deprivation of liberty.
He could face anywhere up to 20 years in prison, but his lawyer Shaune Irving is hopeful he'll get somewhere between six and nine years.
Being interviewed on Sunrise this morning, he told Natalie Barr his client would "serve a significant portion of that before being eligible for parole".
However, Barr then threw a difficult question at him, asking how he would feel if his child was the victim.
He revealed that he has a seven-year-old daughter himself.
"It is quite a difficult question and one that I have been asked many times," he said. "Ultimately, my job is to make sure that Sterling Free has a fair sentence and that all the facts are before the court.
"Six-to-nine years is what we estimate the offending on the relevant cases in the legislation that is currently before the courts as well. That is still something that needs to play out in his sentence today."
He said he had to be "very mindful" not to put his personal view forward and that the most important thing today is to ensure the court proceedings are brought to a close, for the victim's sake.
"I think the more important thing is to ensure that we don't expose this young victim to any further, unnecessary trauma by having to attend court or go through that process of a trial and really try and afford her the protection because it is something that is no doubt that family is dealing with and something that we need to be very mindful of and sympathetic towards," he said.
In July, CCTV footage emerged from the Westfield North Lakes shopping centre that shows the disturbing moments before the little girl is convinced to follow Free from the store.
It shows Free stalking the aisles around the children's toys section of the store then doubling back.
He tells the child to "follow me" before she starts walking behind him out of the store.
CCTV footage from inside the Westfield shows the pair walk straight past hundreds of other shoppers and out the door.
The Courier Mail reported that Free was kept in isolation because of threats to him and his family.
The 26-year-old is the father of twin girls and lives with his long-term partner.
Mr Irving, told reporters outside court in July that his client was sorry.
"Mr Free's actions and his instructions to us demonstrate a level of remorse," he said.