Hunter man jailed for child abuse offences

Child_Exploitation

Editor’s note: Footage of the arrest is available for download

Audio grabs from AFP Detective Acting Sergeant Nicole Whelan are available for download.

A 47-year-old man from the Hunter region was jailed for a maximum of six years and nine months on Friday (4 March 2022) after being convicted of multiple child abuse offences committed while claiming to be a teacher.

The AFP’s Eastern Command Child Protection Operations team arrested and charged the man in July 2020 with soliciting and sharing sexually explicit pictures with a juvenile girl while pretending to be a teacher at the girl’s school.

It was alleged in court the man initiated an online relationship with the girl through social media, where he groomed the girl and shared sexualised text and explicit images. This included online conversations which convinced the girl she was dealing with her teacher.

The girl later approached the teacher at her school through other social media channels, but he was unaware of what had occurred online with the man purporting to be him. The matter was referred to the AFP in September 2019, with investigators seeking to determine what had actually occurred.

Extensive enquiries by AFP investigators led them to execute a search warrant at the Hunter man’s address. During the search warrant two mobile phones, a laptop computer and an external hard drive were seized and later examined.

It was alleged in court that AFP investigators also found evidence the man had engaged in online conversations with other children. The AFP identified a further victim and provided welfare and support.

AFP Child Protection Operations Detective Acting Sergeant Nicole Whelan said online predators will cruelly play on a young victim’s emotions and use any pretense to groom and exploit them.

“Online grooming can take place on messaging apps, social media, gaming sites, emails and chatrooms. These are easy gateways for predators to make contact with their victims,” Detective Acting Sergeant Whelan said.

“If a child in your care has been targeted by an online predator, please know that our Child Protection officers are here to help. We encourage parents and guardians to collect screenshots or photos of the interactions and make a report to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

“If a child in your care is in immediate danger, please call police on 000”.

The man pleaded guilty to the following offences in June 2021:

  • One charge of possess or control child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service, contrary to 474.22A Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Four charges of using a carriage service to transmit indecent communications to a person under 16 years of age, contrary to section 474.27A Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Four charges of using a carriage service to cause child pornography to be transmitted to self, contrary to section 474.19 Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Three charges of using a carriage service to solicit child pornography, contrary to section 474.19 Criminal Code (Cth); and
  • One charge of using a carriage service to procure a person under 16 years of age for sexual activity, contrary to section 474.26 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The following offences were taken into account at sentencing:

  • Two charges of using a carriage service to transmit indecent communications to a person under 16 years of age, contrary to section 474.27A Criminal Code (Cth).

The man was sentenced to six years and nine months jail by the Sydney Downing District Court on Friday (4 March 2022).

Online child sex offender tactics: Catfishing

Online child sex offenders use a range of tactics to solicit child abuse material, including creating fake profiles to befriend a child online and gain their trust.

An offender may invent an entirely new identity, or in this case, assume the identity of someone the child knows using images and details they find online to make it more convincing.

An offender might be a stranger or someone familiar.

Online grooming can also happen fairly quickly and parents and carers may not necessarily notice the signs.

Top tips for parents and carers

  • Supervision is essential. This means knowing what your children are doing online, who they are interacting with and what platforms, apps or games they are using.
  • Have open conversations, often. The most important tip we can give any parent or carer is to start talking to your child about their online activities. According to research commissioned by the ACCCE, only 52 percent of parents or carers talk to their children about online safety.
  • Check privacy settings. We recommend parents and carers research and understand app settings, including privacy settings. This could include turning off location settings, setting profiles to private, or turning off chat functions.
  • Be approachable if your child needs help. Coming forward isn’t always easy, and children may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished or have their devices taken away.
  • Know how to report. If something goes wrong online, it is critical your child is supported. Parents and carers need to know how to take action.
  • Consider establishing a Family Online Safety Contract. Developed by ThinkUKnow and The Carly Ryan Foundation, it has been designed to help parents and carers start online safety discussions with their children. A copy is available at the ThinkUKnow website.

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 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. 

Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297 

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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