Priest arrested over internet grooming

AAP, Australia/August 14, 2009

A 54-year-old Sydney priest has been arrested and charged after attempting to groom detectives masquerading as a 13-year-old girl, allegedly sending them a series of sexually explicit chat room messages.

Police posed a 13-year-old girl on the internet to catch the Liverpool man, who they say sent the chat room messages between July and August, and even tried to arrange a meeting to engage in sexual activity.

Police arrested the priest in a car park at Parramatta, in western Sydney, at 12.30pm yesterday, and later charged him with grooming a person under the age of 16.

He was refused bail to appear in Parramatta Local Court today.

During the operation, police also seized laptop computers, documents, photographs and a mobile phone from a presbytery on George St in Liverpool.

Following the arrest, Sex Crimes Squad commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec urged parents to speak to their children about the dangers of the internet.

"The internet can be a great tool for children, however social networking sites can be potentially dangerous for children if they are left unsupervised," he said.

"Regular online operations are conducted by detectives at the Child Exploitation and Internet Unit in an effort to detect online sexual predators.

"The role of parents however, is crucial with assisting in the prevention of child internet exploitation."

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