Media Release: AFP shuts down online child abuse network, 21 arrested

Release Date: Friday, March 15 2013, 11:00 AM

The AFP, working with state and territory police, has exposed a network of online child predators allegedly involved in sharing and distributing child exploitation material, arresting 21 persons in a national operation this week.

The investigation, codenamed “Operation Conqueror”, began in January this year when the AFP identified a number of individuals using a peer-to-peer file sharing network with images depicting children of various ages being sexually abused.

As part of the operation, the AFP executed a total of 36 search warrants in every state and territory in Australia during an intense period of action, where hundreds of thousands of images and videos depicting online child sexual exploitation were seized.

Offences range from producing, accessing, transmitting and making available child exploitation material, contrary to the provisions of section 474 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. These offences carry sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment. Possession charges relevant to applicable state legislation were also laid.

AFP Manager Cyber Crime Operations Glen McEwen said the AFP will continue to work relentlessly to prevent further distribution of this material.

“This investigation highlights the outstanding work that our officers do every day to combat child sexual exploitation, and to bring these offenders to justice,” Commander McEwan said.

“Every image is a crime scene. Every photograph captures an actual situation where a child has been abused

If you choose to view and circulate child abuse images, you will be investigated, pursued and charged, regardless of where you are located.”

The AFP is committed to combating the exploitation of children and takes the crimes of creating, possessing and distributing child abuse material very seriously. Further information on Internet safety can be found at http://www.thinkuknow.org.au.

Further arrests are anticipated as this operation continues.

Breakdown of arrests by state:

NSW - 8
VIC -  5
QLD - 4
WA - 2
ACT - 1
NT - 1
SA - 0
TAS - 0

Note to media: Images and video are available via the AFP Extranet.

CHILD EXPLOITATION IMAGES, NOT ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’

Use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ actually benefits child sex abusers:

  • It indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser
  • It conjures up images of children posing in ‘provocative’ positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse

Every photograph captures an actual situation where a child has been abused. This is not pornography.