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Online Child Groomer Avoids Jail In Queensland

A Gold Coast man who engaged in sexually explicit internet conversations with dozens of users he believed were underage girls has avoided jail.

Ashley Brian Foster, 25, pleaded guilty to 44 counts of grooming a child under 16 and two counts of grooming a child under 12, at Southport District Court on Monday.

Foster was given a four-year jail sentence for the two counts of grooming a child under 12 but that term was wholly suspended for five years.

He was also granted immediate parole on a three-year jail sentence for the 44 other grooming charges.

The court heard police had seized Foster's phone during an investigation into drug charges against him in 2014, leading to the location of dozens of child exploitation images.

Further analysis of the phone revealed a series of online conversations via a messaging app over a two-month period in 2014 where Foster posed as a teenage boy.

He engaged in lewd conversations and sent sexually explicit messages to dozens of users claiming to be girls aged 10-15.

Judge David Kent said while none of the users' real ages or genders had been determined, Foster believed they were underage children.

"The content was lewd and depraved and unrestrained," Judge Kent said.

The court heard Foster was battling an ice addiction at the time of the crimes and a psychiatrist's report claimed his behaviour was "acute substance-induced psychosis" and not the behaviour of a pedophile.

Judge Kent said the transition in Foster from a 22-year-old ice addict to a 25-year-old married man expecting his first child had played a role in his avoiding actual custody.

"Your rehabilitation is greatly advanced during the unexplained delay since the commission of the offence," Judge Kent said.

AAP

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