Police warn of online predators this school holidays

Child_Exploitation

This is a joint release between Australian Federal Police and South Australia Police

Four South Australians have been charged in the past fortnight for allegedly sexually exploiting or abusing children, after separate investigations by the South Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (SA JACET).

It comes as a fifth man pleaded guilty on Monday (21 December) to five offences, including possessing a child-like sex doll – the first South Australian charged with the Commonwealth offence – and accessing child abuse material online.

SA JACET is highlighting the cases to remind families of the importance of being vigilant about children’s online activities during this holiday period.

COVID-19 created a perfect storm for online child exploitation, with perpetrators having more opportunities to access and share horrific content, as well as to target children and young people who were spending an increasing amount of time online.

School holidays pose similar risks, with offenders typically more active during these periods – trying to groom children or obtain child sexual exploitation material – because they know young people are also likely to be spending time online, potentially unsupervised.

SA JACET, which comprises officers from the Australian Federal Police and SA Police, have already charged 51 per cent more offenders in 2020 than last year.

91 people have been charged between 1 January and 22 December, up from 60 people in 2019.

55 children have been removed from harm in Australia and overseas in 2020 as a result of the investigations, with 47 children helped last year.

AFP Central Command Detective Acting Superintendent Gavin Stone said police are committed to identifying and prosecuting alleged offenders, as it is heartbreaking that any children are being preyed on and harmed.

“We will never give up our fight to keep children safe and we urge parents and carers to understand how the technology their children are using works and connects to the internet. “Please talk to your children about who they interact with online and what platforms, apps and games they are using,” he said.

“We are still regularly seeing cases involving children and young people being targeted through social networking, image or video sharing apps, or instant messaging to coerce them into self-producing online child sexual exploitation material.”

Detective Acting Superintendent Stone said supervising children or regularly checking on their online activities are important ways to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

“Supervision is not only critical to prevent an incident occurring, but can also help adults to quickly take action if something goes wrong. Any concerning activity should be reported to police.”

SA Police Detective Chief Inspector Richard Lambert said communicating with your child is one of the keys to preventing your child from becoming a victim of online sexual exploitation. 

“It is not always necessary to have an operating knowledge of computers, but talk to your children when they are online, and ask questions about what they are doing, who they are engaging with and what is being discussed,” Detective Chief Inspector Lambert said.

“Taking the time and effort to be involved in your child’s online activity and communicate with them can prevent serious harm caused by online child sexual exploitation. Parents are urged to talk to their children about their online activity and be aware when they are online.”

Recent SA JACET warrant activity and arrests:

A 48-year-old man charged with two offences on 7 December:

  • SA JACET received a report from the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) regarding multiple child abuse material (CAM) files being transmitted via a social media platform.
  • Police identified the 48-year-old Hawthorn man as the suspected user of the online account.
  • When police searched the man’s home on 7 December, they allegedly found child abuse material on his mobile phone, and records of communication between him and another person about allegedly engaging in sexual activity with children in Thailand.
  • The man is expected to appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court on 3 March 2021 charged with:
    • 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 CAM, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

A 58-year-old man charged with two offences on 8 December:

  • The AFP received a report from the United States’ National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) alleging a South Australian man was suspected of uploading child abuse material to an online platform.  
  • SA JACET, with the assistance of SA Police’s E-Crime team, searched the man’s home on 8 December and allegedly found images depicting child abuse material on his mobile phone.
  • He was bailed on strict conditions to appear in Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 14 January 2021 on:
    • two counts (one basic and one aggravated) of possession of child exploitation material, contrary to Section 63A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA).

A 30-year-old man charged on 16 December:

  • A 30-year-old man from the north eastern suburbs has been charged with making a child amendable to sexual activity, contrary to section 63B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). 
  • Examination of the accused man’s electronic devices is ongoing and further charges may be laid.
  • The man appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 17 December where he was remanded in custody until 20 April 2021.

A 31-year-old man charged with eight offences on 17 December:

  • The 31-year-old man was charged in February 2020 with making a child amenable to sexual activity and possessing child exploitation material.
  • SA JACET charged the man with eight further offences on 17 December after reviewing devices and alleged evidence seized in February.
  • Police will allege the man sexually abused two children known to him and recorded the abuse.
  • He appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court on 18 December on charges of:
    • Two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with two children known to him;
    • Four counts of aggravated production of child exploitation material;
    • One count of aggravated possession of child exploitation material;
    • Breach of bail.
  • He was remanded in custody and is expected back in court on 17 May 2021.

Child-like sex doll case:

  • A 31-year-old man faces a potential maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment when he is sentenced after he pleaded guilty to possessing a sex doll, designed to look like a girl aged under 13, and four other child exploitation offences.
  • The man was charged in January 2020, becoming the first person in South Australia to be charged with possessing a child sex doll under Commonwealth laws introduced in September 2019 to target child abuse-related crimes.
  • Police alleged the man used the dark web to access some of the sexually explicit images and videos of children in an attempt to hide his illegal activities.

In the past fortnight, SA JACET has investigated three other reports about suspected online child exploitation offences involving South Australian residents. Further details will be provided if charges are laid.

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: www.thinkuknow.org.au

How to report online child abuse

If you believe a child is in imminent danger, call police Triple Zero (000) or visit your local police station.

If your child is experiencing issues online, it is essential to collect evidence - taking screenshots or photos of the content. Once you have collected your evidence, block and report on the app, site or platform where the issue occurred.

Online child sexual exploitation can be reported to the ACCCE at https://www.accce.gov.au/report or to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit to learn more www.accce.gov.au/support

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Media are reminded it is an offence to publish or broadcast details which may identify a victim of a sexual offence, including the age of the victim or how the offender had access to a child.

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

SA Police Media: (08) 7322 3848

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2019-20

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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