Man extradited on child theft charge

A VICTORIAN man charged with child stealing will front the Ballarat Magistrates' Court this morning after he was arrested in Millicent at the weekend.

Police detained Dean Patrick James, 36, of Sebatopol on Saturday morning after a local shop owner recognised the 13-year-old schoolgirl he was travelling with from news reports.

The girl was reported missing after she left her Victorian home on Tuesday last week.

The Millicent shop owner said she became suspicious and called the police because the teen was wearing her school uniform on a weekend.

She said police arrested James and took the girl into their care within 15 minutes.

The blue 1997 Ford sedan the pair were travelling in has also been seized.

Police successfully applied for James' extradition to Victoria today in the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court.

"It is due to the serious nature of the offence and flight risk that bail is opposed," Prosecutor Brevet Sergeant Caroline Batten told the court.

James had been remanded in custody since Saturday.

However, defence lawyer Ebony Cunningham argued her client was not a flight risk.

She said James would never have been in South Australia if the alleged victim had not contacted him.

"He was attempting to protect a minor," Ms Cunningham said.

She said the girl asked her client to take her interstate to escape an abusive situation.

The court heard the alleged victim purchased a train ticket to Sebastopol late last week, where she arranged for the defendant to pick her up.

Until then, Ms Cunningham said her client had believed the girl was 20 years old.

The alleged offender will face charges of attempting to procure a child under the age of 16 for the purpose of sexual penetration and child stealing when he faces his local court tomorrow morning.

His 13-year-old companion was returned to her family on Saturday evening.

Detective Senior Constable Adam Tink from Ballarat's Sexual Offence and Child Abuse investigation team credited South East police and residents with the speedy discovery.

He said police received numerous tipoffs about the girl's whereabouts leading up to the arrest.

"If it wasn't for the public, we certainly wouldn't have had such a timely arrest," Det Snr Cnst Tink said outside the Mount Gambier courthouse.

Asked how the girl was faring after the ordeal, he said she was "holding up okay".

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