21 charged in month of action targeting online child exploitation

21 people have been charged with 55 offences following a nationally coordinated operation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP)-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), together with state and territory police.

Operation SOUTIEN was the first national operation coordinated by the ACCCE and involved investigators from state and territory police working together with the AFP Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams (JACET).

The operation commenced in early November following three days of intensive training in specialised child protection systems conducted by the US-based Child Rescue Coalition at the ACCCE in Brisbane.

The CPS training involved 22 investigators from across Australian law enforcement was followed by a period of “target identification”, where State and Territory investigators and AFP JACETs used the training to identify targets relating to child exploitation offences in their specific jurisdictions.

Detective Superintendent Dan Evans, who leads the operational elements of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, said Operation SOUTIEN demonstrated the success that collaboration between Commonwealth and State and Territory law enforcement can achieve in the field of child protection.

“In operations like SOUTIEN we focus on removing children from harm, and training in advanced investigative tools to help us and state and territory police achieve that goal,” Detective Superintendent Evans said.

Glen Pounder, Director of Programs at US-based Child Rescue Coalition said partnerships and collaboration with law enforcement is what makes their work worthwhile.

“Training in specialist child protection systems, in the hands of law enforcement, makes it possible to identify and arrest those who are connected with child sexual abuse. We are proud to be working with the ACCCE and law enforcement across Australia to remove those whose provide the greatest risk to children,” Mr Pounder said.

The ACCCE was launched in September 2018 to drive a national collaborative response to counter the exploitation of children. It brings together specialist expertise and skills from across the public and private sectors, and civil society to support investigations into child sexual abuse and to develop prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

The ACCCE works closely with Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Teams, which are made up of officers from the AFP and police from all state and territories and are Australia’s frontline in tackling, disrupting and prosecuting child sexual exploitation online.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child sexual exploitation and abuse are urged to report via the AFP, or to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at www.crimestoppers.com.au.

Child safety top tips:

  • Supervision for young children is critical in preventing self-produced child exploitation material and online grooming.
  • Make sure your child feels comfortable in talking to you or another trusted adult about issues they might be experiencing online.
  • It is never too late to seek support or help.
  • For more on ThinkUKnow, or to request a presentation in your area, visit www.thinkuknow.org.au

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