Terrence Edward Laybutt was arrested at Park Beach in Coffs Harbour earlier this year.
Terrence Edward Laybutt was arrested at Park Beach in Coffs Harbour earlier this year.

Former sex ed teacher jailed for preying on underage girl

A disgraced former high school teacher who preyed on a child online before attempting to meet up for sex blamed his actions on "loneliness", a court has heard.

Among a string of disturbing messages, the retired Grafton health teacher told the young teen he was "very horny" and asked her to send him "naughty" photos of herself. 

The 64-year-old was, however, unknowingly speaking with a detective masquerading as a 14-year-old girl. 

Flanked by loved ones at Coffs Harbour District Court on Monday, a grey-haired Terrence Edward Laybutt kept his head in his hands as the judge detailed his sexually explicit acts, which culminated in his arrest at Park Beach in February last year. 

Laybutt, a widower who was struggling with depression, started going on the chatroom 'Chatiw' when he couldn't sleep, the court heard.

It was there that he began having inappropriate conversations with the child, and exposing himself on webcam during their four weeks of interaction. 

The court heard he attempted to gain her confidence by assuring her he would look after her and prevent her from falling pregnant, telling her he had taught sex ed to young teens for several years.

He organised to meet the girl at Park Beach in Coffs Harbour on February 4, 2020 and told her not to tell her friends.

Detectives swooped on the man and arrested him at the Park Beach car park, finding condoms, pillows and blankets in his car. At the scene he told detectives nothing had "happened" and that he and the child had only been talking.

 

Strike Force Trawler detectives arrested Laybutt at Coffs Harbour’s Park Beach in February, 2020.
Strike Force Trawler detectives arrested Laybutt at Coffs Harbour’s Park Beach in February, 2020.

 

He however later pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to procure a child for sex in court, and had spent two days in custody before being granted conditional bail.

At his sentencing in Coffs Harbour on Monday, character references from Laybutt's family and friends painted a picture of a family man who had a successful career and marriage, before the death of his wife "changed" his life.

A principal of a Grafton high school, where Laybutt was employed, spoke highly of his qualities as a teacher and said he had accepted responsibility for his actions.

Judge Jonathan Priestley however remained unconvinced that Laybutt had shown insight into his offending, noting several inconsistencies in the case - including that Laybutt was in an intimate relationship with a woman for three years at the time.

"I've come to the conclusion that there is an element of denial from the offender as to acknowledging his wrongdoing," Judge Priestley said.

The defence had sought the immediate release of Laybutt due to his positive contribution to the community, and argued he had already suffered significant public humiliation and ostracism.

 

Terrence Laybutt pictured at a high school sporting event in 2015. A principal spoke highly of Laybutt’s character during the court proceedings. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner
Terrence Laybutt pictured at a high school sporting event in 2015. A principal spoke highly of Laybutt’s character during the court proceedings. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner

 

Blurred images of his arrest were published by NSW Police online and in several news outlets, and the defence had used local news articles as evidence during the proceedings.

The defence also argued he was given "onerous" bail conditions, which included a curfew, reporting to police twice daily, and a ban from using the internet.

Judge Jonathan Priestley however denied the request for Laybutt's immediate release, calling out Laybutt for recognising the negative impact the offence had on himself, but not on the community at large. 

He described his actions as "obsequious deceit."

"He attributed the offending to feelings of loneliness and boredom, and a need to talk to someone," Judge Priestley said.

"He tried to justify the behaviour because the initial site was aimed for people aged 18 years and over - but the immediate question is, why did he carry on as he did when it was clearly stated [the victim] was 14?" 

Judge Priestley however took into account Laybutt's good character, and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment for 15 months, where he will spend six months behind bars. After this he will be placed on bail conditions including that he must be of good behaviour, and continue receiving treatment from a psychologist. 


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