Between January and March 2021, the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) comprising Northern Territory and Australian Federal Police together with investigators from Queensland JACET and the Australian Centre To Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), executed Operation May – an operation targeting online predators attempting to procure children through internet chat lines.
During the operation investigators executed 19 search warrants, locations including Darwin, Mataranka, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, MacDonnell Region and Victorian Daly Region in the Northern Territory, as well as a number of locations around Queensland. Northern Territory Police also successfully extradited a 52-year-old male from Western Australia.
Fifteen persons ranging between the ages of 21 and 52 were arrested during the operation for a total of 45 charges, offences include:
- Using the internet to procure a child (Section 228D QLD Criminal Code)
- Transmit indecent communication to U/16 (Cwth)
- Use carriage service child pornography (Cwth)
- Use carriage service to procure a child U/16 (Cwth)
- Failing to comply with reporting obligations
- Indecent dealing with a child under 10
During the operation, investigators purporting to be a 12-year-old girl engaged with a 28-year-old male on an online forum where the male arranged to meet the child with the intention of engaging in sexual intercourse.
Investigators tracked the male whilst using an undercover operative as a decoy. The male was intercepted upon arrival at the meet site and subsequently arrested, charged and is remanded in custody.
Detective Sergeant Paul Lawson from Northern Territory Police said, “The offences allegedly committed and the potential for further offending by these individuals is horrific. Stopping the abhorrent intentions of people like them, drives officers within the joint operation every day to rid our society of this type of offending.”
AFP Detective Superintendent Paula Hudson ACCCE and Child Protection Operations, said the operation was another example of Australian law enforcement’s dedication to working hand-in-hand to protect children, and ensure those suspected of procuring and producing child abuse material were detected and prosecuted.
“This is also a warning to any adult who wants to prey on children online – you may not be talking to a vulnerable child; you could be talking to a police officer. The ACCCE, JACET’s and NT Police work closely together and have a range of skills and tactics to expose you and bring you to justice,” Detective Superintendent Hudson said.
The AFP-led ACCCE is committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and is at the centre of a collaborative national approach to combatting organised child abuse and had a key role in this operation through its covert online capability.
The AFP-led ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment. You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.
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.