A former WA police officer whose career has been left in ruins by an "error of judgment" has today walked free from the Perth District Court after pleading guilty to a string of charges.
Andrew James Maher, 43, was a respected officer based at Mandurah police station before taking on a role with the WA Police media unit.
He was charged in 2017 with using electronic communication to expose three children to indecent matter.
The charges related to content shared by Maher on social media with boys under the age of 13.
The court heard Maher, who coached the boys' soccer team, and who had known the victims for several years, sent a series of messages to them containing inappropriate language and content five times over six weeks.
One of the messages Maher sent to two boys included a video from viral site LADbible called "hilarious penis coffee art".
The video, which is widely available on the internet and on social media sites, showed 'drawings' of penises being made with milk froth in cups of coffee.
Counsel for Maher conceded the content was inappropriate for her client to have sent to the boys, but insisted the former cop had no sinister intentions in sharing the video which was "basically boy humour".
"Mr Maher has never behaved to any child in a physically inappropriate way," the lawyer said.
"[He was] especially proud of his position as a police officer and genuinely enjoyed his work."
A distraught Maher, who resigned from WA Police in October last year, sobbed as the impact the charges had had on his life were detailed to the court.
"Mr Maher has lost everything at this point," his lawyer said.
"His job; his reputation.
"He is mortified and embarrassed by these offences."
District Court Judge Christopher Stevenson said the case was a difficult and unusual one, in that Maher had no sexual interest in children and had not sent the boys' messages with any intent of grooming them.
Rather, Maher had seen himself as a peer of the boys, and had been trying to engage with them using their own language.
Described as a "gross error of judgment", Maher's offences bore no similarity to any other case involving the same charges, according to the Judge Stevenson who said the messages sent reflected immaturity rather than sexual intent.
Maher, who could have faced a maximum prison term of 10 years for the charges he pleaded guilty to, was released on a community-based order with program requirements.
He declined to comment following the sentencing hearing, but expressed relief as he hugged his wife and family who had stood by him during the two-year ordeal.