An Australian Defense Force member accused of raping a teenage boy has been released on bail.
Perth-based Caleb Horner, 36, was granted the application in the County Court in Melbourne on Monday.
He is due to stand trial next year after pleading not guilty to charges including rape, sexual penetration of a child under 16, sexual assault of a child under 16 and grooming.
Police allege Horner first contacted a 12-year-old boy on Instagram in 2018 before reconnecting with him online two years later.
The 36-year-old is accused of grooming the boy and sexually assaulting him between January and March 2020.
Horner was arrested in November last year and has been in custody for the past 270 days.
He allegedly admitted to police that he spoke to the boy, knew the teen’s age and shared photos with him.
In her reasons for granting bail, County Court Judge Fiona Todd noted Horner demonstrated compelling reasons as he had no prior convictions, no previous court orders and a stable address.
Horner was born and raised in Melbourne, Judge Todd said, with his only links to Western Australia being his ADF posting and his partner.
The 36-year-old, who is suspended from the ADF without pay, had all of his family in Victoria so he was less of a flight risk, the judge noted.
She said she was concerned about the risk of Horner approaching young boys, noting evidence that the alleged victim was worried about being contacted by the accused online.
But Judge Todd said she felt any risk could be mitigated through a number of bail conditions.
Horner was granted bail on conditions including he only uses one electronic device, does not use social media sites and does not approach any child under the age of 16.
He is also expected to hand over his phone to police upon request and not leave the state of Victoria.
Horner is due to return to court next month.