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Tomas Hopkins: Support worker jailed for six years for sexually interfering with teenage girls in his care

Headshot of Carly Laden
Carly LadenSouth Western Times
Bunbury Courthouse.
Camera IconBunbury Courthouse. Credit: Carly Laden/South Western Times

A 29-year-old Australind man has been jailed for six years for sexually interfering with two teenagers under his care and paying one of them off to keep quiet about the offending.

Tomas Albert Hopkins appeared in Bunbury District Court on Monday where he was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to persistently engaging in sexual conduct with a child under the age of 16 years and four counts of indecently dealing with a child over 16 under his authority.

Hopkins offended against two teenage girls, both of whom were diagnosed with autism, while being employed by their respective parents as a support worker.

Hopkins was paid to help teach life skills and develop the girls’ social skills and was rostered to spend several hours with them on set days.

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The court was told that between March 2020 and November 2020, Hopkins coerced one teenager into entering a sexual relationship with him, telling her “I think this is more than just a support worker thing”.

Despite the girl’s reluctance, the pair would travel in Hopkins’ car to the Koombana Bay lookout at night time during their arranged meetings and engage in sexual conduct on 20 to 30 separate occasions.

Whenever the victim would express reluctance at engaging in sexual conduct with Hopkins, he would become enraged and on one occasion punched his steering wheel.

After the pair’s relationship ended, the victim confronted Hopkins about the offending, prompting him to pay her $1000 to keep quiet, followed by a further $9000 when she later calculated he had been paid more than $1000 by her parents.

Hopkins also offended against another teenage girl in his care between September 2021 and January 2022, with the court detailing several occasions when Hopkins touched her inappropriately including while watching television at her Bunbury home and shocking her with an electric shock paddle while he showed her various sex toys at his Australind home.

The court was also told of two occasions when Hopkins “gyrated” against her while he spooned her in bed as she tried taking a nap, along with another incident when Hopkins touched the girl when her body began to shudder after becoming overwhelmed while on a shopping trip, telling her her body shuddering was “teasing” him.

When the girl reported the offending to Bunbury police in February, she said Hopkins told her he would self-harm if she told anyone.

A psychological report that was submitted to the court described Hopkins as being a person with a “strong need for an emotional connection, affirmation and love” after having a dysfunctional childhood.

It was also submitted Hopkins had since engaged in counselling to address his mental health needs though further assessment may be required.

In sentencing, District Court Judge John Prior described Hopkins’ offending as persistent with a level of psychological coercion, all while being aware of each victims’ vulnerabilities.

Judge Prior also acknowledged a victim impact statement from one of the victims, which described how her mental health difficulties had been exacerbated by the incidents, significantly affecting her ability to trust others, and it forced her to withdraw from school.

“You were paid to care for each victim,” Judge Prior said.

“You were in a position of trust and you breached that trust.

“You put your own personal, sexual needs before the care of your victims.”

Hopkins’ sentence was backdated to January 2022 and he will be eligible for parole in 2026.

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