Editor’s note: An image of the seized phone is available via Hightail.
A western Sydney man has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment at Penrith District Court for online child abuse offences, including the sextortion of a 12-year-old girl.
The man, 22, was sentenced today (13 December, 2023) after pleading guilty to five online child abuse offences and an offence of possessing bestiality material.
AFP Eastern Command Child Protection Operations officers executed a search warrant at a Woodcroft address in July, 2022.
They seized three mobile phones belonging to the man, which were found to contain child abuse material relating to two victims, as well as bestiality material.
The man was interviewed by AFP officers and admitted to soliciting and extorting sexually explicit material from minors through the social media application Snapchat.
The AFP investigation, named Operation Mareeba, was launched after a report was made in April 2022 about an alleged sextortion.
AFP Constable Emily McFarlane said police would do everything in their power to protect children from online sexual predators.
“This is a vile example of online sexual offending – a grown man preying on the innocence of a 12-year-old girl living on the other side of the country,” she said.
“This is a growing trend and police efforts are focused on protecting Australia’s children from such an abhorrent crime.
"Sextortion can escalate in a matter of minutes, but it is important for children to remember it is not your fault and when you speak up, we will believe and support you.
"There are some tell-tale signs of sextortion, including incoming friend requests from strangers or people pretending to be friends with your friends, sudden sexualised questions, conversations, or photos from a random profile asking for some in return.
"It's important that children know help is available and the AFP and its partners, including Kids Helpline, are here to protect and support victims of sextortion.”
The man, 22, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years and eight months.
The offences for which he pleaded guilty were:
- Two counts of possess or control child abuse material obtained using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code (Cth);
- Two counts of use carriage service to cause child abuse material to be transmitted to self, contrary to section 474.22(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
- One count of use carriage service to solicit, transmit and cause child abuse material to be transmitted to self, contrary to section 474.22(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
- One count of possess bestiality material, contrary to section 547E(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.
The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE at www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.
If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available at www.accce.gov.au/support.
Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety. Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.
For more information on the role of the ACCCE, what is online child sexual exploitation and how to report it visit www.accce.gov.au.
Note to media: Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL not ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.