A 54-year-old Newcastle man has become the 15th person arrested as part of a large-scale Australian Federal Police (AFP)-led investigation into an online network of alleged child sex offenders.
The man is scheduled to appear in Newcastle Local Court today (28 November 2020) after being arrested and charged with numerous child abuse material offences and a bestiality charge related to one animal yesterday (27 November 2020).
The investigation, codenamed Operation Arkstone, has now led to the arrest of nine men in NSW since it started in February 2020, with offences ranging from multiple child abuse material to bestiality offences.
Operation Arkstone was initially announced in June 2020 and, earlier this month, the AFP revealed that the investigation had resulted in 828 charges laid and 46 child victims identified.
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) received the initial report from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about an online user allegedly accessing child abuse material earlier this year.
AFP Eastern Command Child Protection Operations investigators arrested the alleged online user in February 2020. The social media forums allegedly discovered on his electronic devices for the purposes of sharing child abuse material sparked the beginning of Operation Arkstone.
AFP investigators and forensics specialists have continued examining the evidence seized at each Operation Arkstone arrest to identify more alleged offenders involved in the online network.
The 54-year-old Newcastle man arrested yesterday has been identified as an alleged member of the group, following a trail of child abuse material shared amongst the online network.
AFP officers executed search warrants at the man’s residence in New Lambton Heights yesterday, seizing two mobile phones and a passport.
The 54-year-old man was subsequently arrested and charged with:
- One count of 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);
- Two counts of using a carriage service to access child abuse material contrary to section 474.22 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Two counts of using a carriage service to solicit child abuse material contrary to section 474.22 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Two counts of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material contrary to section 474.22 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth); and
- One count of bestiality contrary to Section 79 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The maximum penalty for these offences is 15 years’ imprisonment.
“Our investigators are leaving no stone unturned. They are continuing to examine every piece of evidence seized throughout Operation Arkstone to identify and arrest more alleged members of this online network of child sex offenders,” Det. Supt. McQuillan said.
“Sadly, we have not ruled out the possibility of discovering more child victims to be saved from further abuse.”
Members of the public who have any information about this network or people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button.