ACCCE referral leads to victims removed from harm in The Philippines

Fri 30-06-2023 10:26 am AEST

The ACCCE vision is to free children from exploitation, and it is a credit to so many when this vision is achieved. 

Last year the ACCCE referred information to the AFP Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) in the Australian Capital Territory which led to an arrest and several items seized. Following the search warrant, devices were reviewed by officers and material related to children being sexually exploited was identified and referred to the AFP Victim Identification Team. 

The AFP Victim Identification Team is made up of highly experienced investigators trained to look for the most minuscule clue to identify victims. The team uses a range of methodologies and technologies to identify victims and liaise with Australian and foreign law enforcement agencies, particularly in jurisdictions in which a child resides, with the objective of removing the child from harm. 

In this case, the review of material resulted in the team identifying children located in the Philippines. As shown on ABC’s Foreign Correspondent featured in the March 2023 Newsletter, the AFP then worked closely with the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC) which saw a joint investigation commence resulting in four children being rescued and removed from harm last month. 

As part of the Australian Government’s National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse, the AFP has committed to expanding its contribution to the Republic of the Philippine's law enforcement efforts. This is to combat live online child sexual abuse (LOCSA) which includes two new positions (Child Protection Advisor and Intelligence Analyst) to focus on child exploitation within the region. 

The two dedicated Child Protection resources and the AFP Liaison Officer in Manila assisted in the joint operation which saw the four children rescued by Philippine National Police and removed from harm. 

The AFP, through its close collaboration with Philippine law enforcement, assists in detecting and disrupting those engaged in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, removing victims from harm, and addressing the growth of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) offending at the source. 

Importantly, another key measure under the National Strategy is the implementation of a National Victim Identification Framework for online child sexual abuse, resulting in a faster and more efficient national approach to the identification of victims and offenders. 

The AFP’s Victim Identification Team will be enhanced to provide increased national capability and collaboration through co-locating AFP Victim Identification Specialists in JACETs and AFP Child Protection Operations teams. This will provide an ideal opportunity to co-locate AFP and state and territory victim identification specialists to strengthen the JACET framework and create a true National victim identification capability. 

In a separate matter, another five children were removed from harm in the Philippines in an investigation that commenced last year when a man flew into Australia from Thailand carrying devices containing videos of child abuse material. 

The efforts of the Australian Border Force in identifying the man along with the efforts of the Australian Federal Police to identify the source of the videos helped locate the children. 

These results would not be achieved without partnerships at the national and international level. To see collaborative efforts with victims at the forefront of their work is commendable.