Five SA men charged with child abuse-related offences in one week

This is a joint release between Australian Federal Police, South Australia Police and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

A 39-year-old man accused of trying to sexually groom a teenage girl is among five South Australian men charged with child abuse-related offences in one week by the South Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (SA JACET).

With support from the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, SA JACET arrested and charged the men during a week of action last week (14 to 18 March 2021) as a result of five separate investigations.

The 39-year-old man was charged with seven offences, including making a child amenable to sexual activity, after he allegedly engaged in sexualised chat online with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl, but was actually a covert police officer. He also allegedly sent the 'girl' sexually explicit images of himself.

He and the other men caught were all allegedly identified accessing or sharing photos and videos of children being sexually abused and one of the men was arrested after public tip-offs.

Reports of online child sexual exploitation spiked in 2020, with perpetrators taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdowns to access and share horrific content, as well as to target children and young people who were spending an increasing amount of time online.

SA JACET, which comprises officers from the Australian Federal Police and South Australia Police, charged 53 per cent more offenders last year than in 2019. The team's investigations in 2020 resulted in 56 children being removed from harm in Australia and overseas.

AFP Detective Superintendent Gail McClure said sadly demand for child abuse material shows no signs of abating but police will never give up their fight to keep children safe, wherever they live.

"Our investigators examine the most horrific and heartbreaking content, frame by frame, and share intelligence with partners around Australia and overseas, to identify and save children and prosecute perpetrators.

"We are relentless in our efforts to identify anyone who seeks to harm a child and this includes those who view or trade abusive videos and photographs," Detective Superintendent McClure said. "The perverse demand for this abhorrent content fuels the physical abuse of children."

SAPOL Detective Superintendent James Blandford said one of the men charged last week was identified with the help of public information via Crime Stoppers.

"This is another example of the critical role the community plays in working with police to protect children," Detective Superintendent Blandford said.

ACCCE Detective Superintendent Christopher Woods said authorities are appealing for help from parents and carers to keep children safe – particularly as school holidays approach.

"Offenders are typically more active during school holidays, trying to groom children who may also be spending more time online," Detective Superintendent Woods said.

"Please talk to children about what platforms, apps and games they are using and remind them never to reveal personal information to any 'friends' they met online.  "Supervision is not only critical to prevent an incident occurring, but can also help adults to quickly take action if something goes wrong.

"If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it's not their fault and that there is help available - children and young people are never to blame for being a victim of online child sexual exploitation."

Results of last week's activity:

A 43-year-old man charged on 14 March with two offences:

  • Police investigated reports from the United States' National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about a person uploading child exploitation material to a cloud storage platform.
  • The person was allegedly identified as the 43-year-old from Adelaide's southern suburbs and police allegedly found child exploitation material on his mobile phone when they executed a search warrant at his home on 14 March.
  • He is expected to appear in Christies Beach Magistrates Court on 23 April 2021 charged with:
    • Knowingly be in possession of child exploitation material - Aggravated, contrary to section 63A(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. The maximum penalty for this offence is seven years imprisonment;
    • Knowingly be in possession of child exploitation material - Basic, contrary to section 63A(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. The maximum penalty for this offences is five years' imprisonment.

A 31-year-old man charged on 15 March with two offences:

  • Police investigated reports from the United States' National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about a person sending videos of men sexually abusing girls via the instant messaging platform, Kik, and by Facebook.
  • The person using the accounts was allegedly identified as the 31-year-old from Adelaide's northern suburbs.
  • Investigators executed a search warrant at his home on 15 March and allegedly found a significant quantity of child abuse material on his mobile phone, as well as multiple fictitious online personas.
  • He is expected to appear in Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 19 April 2021 charged with:
    • Possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessing using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
    • Using a carriage service to access child abuse material, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
  • The maximum penalty for these offences is 15 years' imprisonment.

A 27-year-old man charged on 16 March with two offences:

  • Police investigated reports from Queensland Police relating to a person accessing child exploitation material.
  • The person was allegedly identified as the 27-year-old from Adelaide's southern suburbs.
  • Investigators executed a search warrant at his home on 16 March and allegedly found child exploitation material on his mobile phone.  Police also identified indecent videos of an adult female, which was allegedly recorded without the woman's consent.
  • The man is expected to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 26 May 2021 charged with:
    • Knowingly be in possession of child exploitation material - Aggravated, contrary to section 63A(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). The maximum penalty for this offence is seven years' imprisonment.
    • Engage in indecent filming, contrary to section 26D(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA), which carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

A 39-year-old man charged on 18 March with seven offences:

  • An investigation was launched after a man allegedly engaged in sexualised conversations with the online persona of a 15-year-old girl, who was a covert police officer.
  • The man also allegedly sent sexually explicit images of himself to the 'girl' and talked about sexual acts he wished to perform.
  • Police inquiries allegedly found the same man had uploaded child abuse material to a Pinterest account and to a cloud storage platform.
  • The man was arrested on 18 March 2021 after investigators executed a warrant at his northern suburbs' Adelaide home and allegedly found records of the communication with the covert officer on his mobile phone.
  • He was refused police bail and faced court on 19 March on charges:
    • Making a child amenable to sexual activity, contrary to section 63B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years' imprisonment.
    • Possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
    • Using a carriage service to access child abuse material, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
    • Using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
    • Breach of bail; contrary to section 17(1) of the Bail Act, 1985.
    • Breaching an intervention order, contrary to section 31(2) of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act. and;
    • An outstanding FINS warrant.
  • He is currently in custody, expected to appear in Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 17 May 2021.

A 37-year-old man charged on 18 March with three offences:

  • Police investigated reports relating to a person producing child exploitation material.
  • The person was allegedly identified as the 37-year-old from Adelaide's northern suburbs.
  • Investigators executed a search warrant at his home on 18 March and allegedly found child exploitation material on his mobile phone.  Police also allegedly found evidence that he had transmitted child exploitation material.
  • He is expected to appear in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 29 April 2021 charged with:
    • Knowingly be in possession of child exploitation material - Aggravated, contrary to section 63A(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA), which carries a seven year jail term.
    • Produce child exploitation material - Aggravated, contrary to section 63(a) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. The maximum penalty for this offence is 12 years' imprisonment.
    • Disseminate child exploitation material - Aggravated, contrary to section 63(b)  of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. The maximum penalty for this offence is 12 years' imprisonment.

SA JACET 2019 and 2020 statistics:

  • 92 people were charged in 2020, up from 60 people in 2019.
  • 56 children were removed from harm in Australia and overseas last year as a result of the SA JACET investigations, with 47 children helped in 2019.

The AFP-led ACCCE, which is based in Brisbane, brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available.

Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protection children online can be found at ThinkUKnow, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

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.

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