A vigilante in a yellow T-shirt threw a cup of water and spit on A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack as he left court a free man over charges relating to his child sex fantasies.
When asked why he did it, the man – in sunglasses and a cap – told media ‘this happened to me as a kid’ and said it was ‘disgusting’ – although reporters pointed out McCormack did not abuse anyone.
He stormed off after a reporter informed him he had committed a crime in front of the cameras.
Bystanders witnessed the man spitting into a cup before the attack and he had been muttering under his breath prior to the attack.
The man, who did not give his name, swore at McCormack as he walked towards a waiting car before pouring the cup on top of him.
McCormack did not give a statement. ‘I’m hoping now Ben will get an opportunity to get on with his life and try and put it all together,’ his lawyer Sam Macedone said.
‘It won’t be easy but let’s give him another chance.’
McCormack was sentenced to a three year good behaviour bond and fined $1000 after the court heard he was a victim of child sexual abuse and obsessively fantasised about a period in his life when he was a young boy.
The 43-year-old was suspended in April from his role as a journalist on A Current Affair after he was charged with two counts of using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child pornography.
He had pleaded guilty to the two counts in September when, over more than 18 months, he sent text messages fantasising about sex with children to a West Australian primary school teacher over Skype.
The Nine reporter sent messages over Skype using the name ‘oz4skinboi’ to the man about how he ‘loved bs (boys)’, a statement of agreed facts said.
The offence is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
However, during a sentencing hearing the judge described McCormack’s offending as at the ‘lowest’ end of the scale as the offending is not typical of the charge.
Police did not allege there any evidence of McCormack exchanging pictures or video showing children in pornographic poses, only words.
Judge Conlon said many of the factors he had to consider in child porn cases – including whether a child had been exploited or treated cruelly – were not present in the 43-year-old journalist’s case.
The judge said he had never seen a person charged with these offences having gone to a psychiatrist to try and deal with the problem for years before his arrest.
‘Well before he was ever charged he acknowledged the wrongness and inappropriateness of his conduct and he sought professional help,’ Judge Conlon said.
‘I am satisfied that he has demonstrated genuine contrition and remorse.’
‘He does have positive prospects of rehabilitation.’
‘I am simply unable to conclude that the only appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment.’
The court heard McCormack had numerous conversations with an adult male between April 2015 and February 2017 that involved ‘fantasising about young male persons’.
Images of child pornography were not transmitted.
‘There has been no attempt to sexually exploit children and no grooming of any child to partake in child pornography,’ Judge Conlon said.
He said McCormack first saw psychiatrist Dr Michael Atherton in January 2015 because he was suffering long-term anxiety and using alcohol excessively in an attempt to manage it.
McCormack also disclosed he had an attraction for young boys.
In his report, Dr Atherton said McCormack ‘has a tendency to fantasise and idolise a period in his early life and incorporates this into an attraction to young boys.
‘At no time in my dealings within him did I feel like he posed a risk to young people.’
McCormack’s defence lawyers had submitted to the court he had seen a psychiatrist over his paedophilic thoughts well prior to his arrest.
‘This is the first time I have ever seen a case involving this type of charge (where) the offender himself, well before he was arrested …. was seeking professional assistance for what he knew was wrong,’ he said.
But a Crown prosecutor, who declined to be named to media, then told the court McCormack should serve a custodial sentence.
But the prosecutor said that ‘doesn’t mean we are saying full-time custody’.
Judge Conlon read from submissions, including psychiatric reports, which said his child sex fantasies were born with ‘fantasising about a period from his early life’, understood to be when he was 11-years-old.
‘The fantasisation of this period of his early life… was the catalyst of his offending,’ a submission by his lawyer Sam Macedone said.
‘He would use these conversations (with the West Australian man) so he would be aroused and so he could masturbate.’
The judge accepted McCormack had been fantasising.
The court did not hear any evidence to suggest he sent photographs or videos of children.
Referring to psychiatric reports, Judge Conlon said: ‘(McCormack) was envious of others who had early acceptance of his sexuality.
During his teens, his sexual fantasies were recreations of missed opportunities where he was too scared of doing anything when he was young.
‘He said he had spent many hours fantasising about returning to his childhood … He had a fantasy love affair with his best friend in his 20s.’
The court heard in the mid-2000s his attraction to pre-teen boys was ‘triggered’ after meeting children, aged 9 and 11, while doing a story about their father.
The sentencing judge read out further details of his attempted suicide attempts – the first of which, days after his arrest, involved a car, an exhaust pipe and a 17-page suicide letter. He was found by a friend.
The court heard he calls his best friend, a doctor, ‘Judas’ for committing him to a mental health institution in an involuntary fashion.
‘I do not think it is an exaggeration to say his life has been destroyed,’ the judge said.
He finished his sentence by warning McCormack not to harm himself.
‘You’ve obviously received a very low point,’ the judge said. ‘From everything that I have read it would appear you have never harmed anyone.
‘And accordingly, I would not like to see you go forth and harm yourself’.
McCormack nodded. He remained composed throughout the sentencing.