High school music tutor who kissed 13yo student avoids jail
A MUSIC tutor at a southern Sydney girls high school who twice kissed a 13-year-old student on the lips has avoided jail time.
Mitchell Thornton - who plays in bands at inner-west music venues according to social media - was found guilty of two counts of indecent assault by a jury in June.
The 24-year-old, who was working as a music tutor at Penshurst Girls High School, kissed the girl on the lips with a closed mouth on two occasions in 2016 over two weeks - once even after being banned from school grounds.
Yesterday he was sentenced to a 3½-year good behaviour bond at Downing Centre District Court despite the standard non-parole period for the offence being eight years' jail.
Judge Jennie Girdham found he was at low risk of reoffending and had good prospects of rehabilitation as he had been undergoing counselling and had the support of his family.
The court heard Thornton met the student at a train station in July 2016 before walking to a nearby park where he held her hand and kissed her a couple of times.
Two weeks later Thornton was banned from the school grounds after complaints were made about him communicating with students.
The girl - who was not the source of the complaint - discovered he had deleted her from the app Snapchat and called him before the pair met up and hugged and kissed at a park on July 29.
The court heard the "overwhelming amount of instant messages" between Thornton and the 13-year-old student, included him encouraging her to sneak out of home at night to meet with him and also to keep their relationship a secret.
Thornton admitted kissing the child but his defence team argued that although highly inappropriate it was not "indecent" because he was "immature" and there was nothing overtly sexual about his contact with her.
The jury was not convinced and convicted him.
The court heard Thornton, who was asked to become a piano tutor by the school's head music teacher, said he felt very alone at the time and that the girl "made him feel appreciated".
The child read out a victim impact statement saying she felt like she couldn't trust anyone but herself and felt "defeated and betrayed" and her enjoyment of school had been impacted.
In giving her sentence Judge Girdham said Thornton's messages indicated "behaviour calculated to obtain greater contact with the child" but accepted the nature of the offence was of low level seriousness.