Victorian man jailed for child abuse offences, after his arrest led to the rescue of children in the Philippines

Editor's note: Footage of the rescue operation can be accessed via Hightail.

A Victorian man who paid to watch children being sexually abused on webcam has been jailed yesterday (6 October 2021), after an Australian Federal Police-led investigation that led to investigations undertaken by the Philippine National Police (PNP) resulting in 23 Philippine children being rescued from harm.

The now 61-year-old man was sentenced to four years and one month imprisonment by the Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty in March (2021) to five child abuse offences, which also included trying to procure a 14-year-old girl for sexual activity during a trip overseas.

During the investigation into the man's crimes, the AFP referred intelligence to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC) that led to Philippine authorities rescuing nine children aged between two and 16, and arresting an alleged female abuse facilitator in February 2021. Read more about this rescue in February (2021).

In July 2021, the female abuse facilitator pleaded guilty to facilitating online sexual abuse and was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

The investigation also led to multiple other Victorian people being charged with separate child abuse-related offences. One of those matters led to Philippine authorities rescuing another 14 children and charging four alleged adult facilitators in May 2021. These cases are currently before the courts.

Police began investigating the Victorian man in November 2019, after Australian Border Force airport officers checked his possessions when he returned from a trip to the Philippines.

A search of his phone revealed text messages showing he had tried to arrange to meet a 14-year-old Philippine girl.

AFP officers interviewed and arrested the man, and the case was taken over by the Victoria Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET), which consists of AFP and Victoria Police officers.

Further enquiries led to officers executing search warrants at the man's home in Barnawartha, North-East Victoria, and on a storage locker at his workplace in Western Australia.

Police found records of conversations on his electronic devices that showed the man arranged to pay for Live Distance Child Abuse on multiple occasions since June 2017.

He had organised for adult 'facilitators' to force children to perform sexually explicit acts on webcam while he watched online.

One of the children rescued in February was identified as a child in a recorded video that was stored on the 61-year-old's laptop.

Child abuse material was also found on other electronic devices seized by police.

The man pleaded guilty on 26 March 2021 to five offences:

  • Solicit material using a carriage service, the material being child pornography material, contrary to section 474.19(1)(a)(iv) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Engage in conduct in relation to a child, intending to cause the child to engage in sexual activity (other than sexual intercourse) in the presence of the [said] defendant, the child being under 16 years of age and the sexual activity having been engaged in outside Australia, namely in Philippines, contrary to section 272.9(2) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Cause material to be transmitted to himself using a carriage service, the material being child abuse material, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(ii) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Engage in conduct with the intention of encouraging an offence pursuant to section 272.14 of the Criminal Code (Cth), namely causing a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity in the presence of the Accused and the conduct was reasonably capable of encouraging such an offence; and
  • Control of material, in the form of data contained in a data storage device; the material being child abuse material and used a carriage service to obtain or access the material, contrary to section 474.22A(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

A sixth offence of causing offence by using a carriage service to discuss a child under 16 in a sexual manner, contrary to section 474.17 of the Criminal Code (Cth), was taken into account for the sentencing.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling said this investigation demonstrates the commitment of the AFP to protect children around the world.

"The AFP is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners, both in Australia and overseas, to track down and charge anyone involved in child exploitation and sexual abuse and keep children safe," Detective Superintendent Crossling said.

AFP's Senior Officer to the Philippines, Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins said this outcome further demonstrates the criticality of AFP's role offshore and the strength of the international partnerships the AFP has developed and continues to maintain.

"The AFP remains committed to continuing close collaboration with Philippine authorities and all our international and domestic partners to detect and disrupt child sex offenders, irrespective of their location, and protect children from this abhorrent crime. This operational outcome further highlights the effectiveness of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC), collectively bringing together capabilities to drive a collaborative response to counter the sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines," Detective Superintendent Perkins said.

The PNP Chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said the PNP investigations that led to 23 child victims rescued and 5 Philippine based facilitators arrested between February and May 2021, emanated from intelligence received by the AFP.

"This outcome highlights the cooperation and commitment we share in protecting children and arresting and prosecuting offenders irrespective of their location," General Guillermo Eleazar said.

The Melbourne County Court sentenced the man to four years and one month's imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years and six months.

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 the Report Abuse button on the ACCCE website.

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

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 National Media: (02) 5126 9297

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2019-20

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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