Man sentenced after ‘sextortion’ campaign against young girls

Child_Exploitation

Editor's note: Arrest footage available for download.

A 24-year-old Sri Lankan national residing in Melbourne has today (2 March 2022) been sentenced to jail, after coercing young girls into sending sexually explicit images and videos of themselves and then distributing the intimate content to their family, friends and posting the material to an adult pornography website.

The man was sentenced to 13 years, six months' imprisonment with a non-parole period of eight years and six months for 25 online child abuse-related offences.

The Australian Federal Police began an investigation in March 2020, after receiving tips from the London Metropolitan Police (MET) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Andova Police Department about girls aged between 12 and 17, allegedly receiving threatening messages seeking self-produced child abuse material (CAM). 

Investigators traced the messages to an address in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood and executed a search warrant in June 2020. Investigators seized a number of devices for further digital forensic examination.

Evidence from the seized devices allegedly show the man contacted six young girls, one in the UK and four in the US and one in Australia, using a fake social media identity. After gaining their trust, the girls sent intimate content to the man. He then used these images and videos to blackmail them for more content, threatening to "ruin their lives" by sharing the previously sent material with their friends and family.

When the children refused his demands, the man contacted multiple friends and relatives of each of them and sent them the intimate images and videos.

The man sent dozens of messages to the girls in which he threatened to release more of the sexually explicit material if they failed to comply with his demands.

The AFP arrested the man on 11 September 2020 and charged him with a number of online child abuse-related offences.

AFP Detective acting Superintendent Aaron Hardcastle said police would do everything in their power to ensure children were protected from predatory offending against their innocence.

 "The judge described the offending as 'as bad as it gets', and said he had never seen anything as bad as this in his career," D/a/ Superintendent Hardcastle said. "That gives just a little insight into the damage this man has done. 

"In this case, not only are the girls deceived into self-producing child exploitation material that could be circulated to other predators, it has been weaponised against them in a campaign to punish and shame them for stopping further exploitation.

"Sextortion, also known as image based abuse, is a form of blackmail where someone threatens to share intimate images of you online unless you give in to their demands.

"These demands are typically for money, more intimate images, sexual favours, or in an effort to control or humiliate a victim."

D/a/ Superintendent Hardcastle added that anyone who falls victim to image-based abuse should report the matter to authorities and to any website where it is published.

"We also encourage people to seek help from a trusted relative or friend or professional support service – it can be a complex situation, but nothing is so bad that you cannot tell someone."

If you are the victim of image-based abuse, consider the following course of action:

  • do not send any more personal images or videos
  • get support from a trusted friend or family member, or professional support services
  • collect as much evidence as you can, including screenshots, URLs or any other records
  • block the persons number/profile/email address (do this after collecting evidence)
  • giving in to requests is not encouraged, once you have complied with their demands there is nothing to prevent them from targeting you again
  • report the matter to police   
  • If you are worried about your physical safety, call Triple Zero (000) or contact your local police station.     

If content has been posted online, report the site where content is hosted to the eSafety Commissioner (esafety.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.

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 2020-21

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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