Melbourne man, 61, sentenced for online child abuse offences

A Hurstbridge man, 61, who paid for child exploitation material to be transmitted live from the Philippines on a web-cam has been sentenced to five months’ jail by the Melbourne County Court.

The man pleaded guilty in June this year to transmitting child abuse material offences, including paying for explicit pictures and videos of a child in the Philippines.

Investigators from the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) arrested and charged the man in September 2021, following an investigation which began with a referral from Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

The referral related to suspicious transfers made from Australia to offshore accounts. Australian authorities identified 173 individual money transfers to accounts in the Philippines over a six month period in 2021 some of which were payments for child abuse material.

When the Victorian JACET – which consists of AFP and Victoria Police officers – searched the man’s home in Melbourne’s north eastern suburbs in August last year they seized multiple electronic devices. After extensive digital forensic analysis – child abuse material was identified and the man was arrested.

An AFP digital forensic examination also uncovered records of online conversations between the man and facilitators of live distance child abuse.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent (D/A/Supt) Jonelle Lancashire said the internet allowed child sex offenders to connect with each other even if they lived thousands of kilometres from each other in different countries however technology had also helped law enforcement reach across borders to prosecute offenders.

“The AFP is working tirelessly with both domestic and international partners to identify and stop anyone involved in harming children,” D/A/Supt Lancashire said

“Children are being forced to endure horrific pain, violence and humiliation for the gratification of depraved adults and this causes lifelong physical and emotional harm.

“We will never give up our fight to protect children and prosecute anyone involved in this vile behaviour.”

AUSTRAC National Manager Intelligence Partnerships, Jon Brewer, said that financial intelligence is critical to disrupting crimes that have a devastating impact on the community.

“It was the highly specialised capabilities of AUSTRAC analysts which resulted in the financial intelligence that triggered this investigation into child exploitation,” Mr Brewer said.

“Without financial intelligence, many crimes would go undetected, which is why AUSTRAC works closely with law enforcement partners in order to identify, prevent and disrupt crimes that have devastating consequences on the community.”

The 61-year-old man was convicted of transmitting child abuse material using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

He has been ordered to serve five months imprisonment but was released immediately due to exceptional circumstances with respect to family carer responsibilities.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety.

An award-winning podcast launched last year by the ACCCE ‘Closing The Net’ is working to change that, showcasing that knowledge is power and that our only chance to help prevent this issue is if we bring a ‘whole-of-community’ response.

The podcast series offers valuable tips and advice on how to keep kids safe online. Listen to the Closing The Net podcast on your favourite streaming platform.

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

Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

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