Sentenced over grooming girls

Last updated 11:17 27/02/2014

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An Auckland Christian youth group leader has been convicted of grooming two 12-year-olds.

Papatoetoe man Ernest Blucher, 18, avoided jail time when he was sentenced in the Manukau District Court yesterday, despite the maximum penalty on the two charges being seven years' imprisonment.

Judge Gus Andree-Wiltens imposed two years' supervision, three months' community detention and 160 hours of community work.

After six years of involvement with Incedo - a Christian group helping children with life skills and values - Blucher became a youth leader for a programme called Rock Solid.

Through his involvement with the group he met the first 12-year-old victim and in April started to chat with her on Facebook.

A month later the tone of their conversation became more intimate when she told Blucher she had broken up with her boyfriend.

According to court documents he often discussed having sex with her and regularly tried to arrange group sex with the victim and her friends.

On May 19, Blucher sent the girl a picture of his genitalia and asked for one of hers in return.

He later asked if he could film himself having sex with her and another girl.

She declined and there was no sexual contact between the pair.

They finally met at an East Auckland skate park, but the girl was with her friends and did not approach him.

While there another 12-year-old girl, who knew Blucher from Rock Solid, approached him because she "felt sorry for him being on his own".

Within days they were texting and he was asking her to participate in similar sex acts.

The offending was cut short when the mothers of the two girls found text messages and contacted police.

Blucher was immediately removed from his position of authority at the youth group.

His manager, Mark Campbell, said the door was not closed to him to receive support from the organisation.
However, he would not be able to work with young people again.

Campbell said he had been very surprised to learn about the offending and confirmed Incedo ran programmes about safely using social media.

One victim's mother tried to read out a victim impact statement in court yesterday but broke down in tears and had to leave the room.

Crown prosecutor Julie-Anne Kincade said the common theme was the victims' lack of trust of people in authority since the offending.

Judge Andree-Wiltens said Blucher's position as a youth leader meant the offending marked a gross breach of trust but he got credit for his youth, clean criminal record and early guilty plea.

Blucher's lawyer, Jennifer Holden, said her client "wasn't intending to be malicious", but had made an adolescent error of judgment.

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