Sydney man arrested in large-scale investigation into an online network of child sex offenders

A large-scale Australian Federal Police (AFP)-led investigation into an online network of alleged child sex offenders has led to the arrest of 17th man under Operation Arkstone, with a 26-year-old NSW man due to face Hornsby Local Court today (15 January 2021).

The Lane Cove man was arrested in his home by the AFP yesterday (14 January 2021) and is facing child abuse material offences, a bestiality offence with one animal removed from harm and one charge of allegedly committing an act of indecency.

The nationwide investigation, known as Operation Arkstone, began in February 2020 and has now led to the arrest of 11 men in NSW.

The 26-year-old arrested yesterday has become the 17th man charged in Australia as part of Operation Arkstone.

The investigation was initially announced in June 2020, and late last year, the AFP revealed Operation Arkstone had resulted in 828 charges laid and 46 child victims identified to date as of November 2020.

AFP investigators from Eastern Command Child Protection Operations arrested the first man in February 2020, following a report to the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Evidence analysed from the arrest in February 2020 revealed an online network of alleged child sex offenders producing and sharing child abuse material with their peers on social media forums.

Since the first arrest, AFP investigators and forensic specialists have been examining the evidence from each arrest and identifying more alleged offenders linked to this network of online child sex offenders.

Through this evidence, a 26-year-old Lane Cove man was identified and subject to further investigation.

AFP officers executed a search warrant at the man’s residence in Lane Cove yesterday, seizing and examining a mobile phone allegedly containing child abuse material.

He was subsequently arrested and charged with:

• Three counts 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 transmit child abuse material contrary to section 474.22 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);

• One count of bestiality contrary to section 79 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW); and

• One count of wilful and obscene exposure in a public place contrary to section 5 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

The maximum penalty for these offences is 15 years’ imprisonment. AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said the horrific acts committed in the child abuse material shared amongst this network of alleged child sex offenders is something no child should ever be subjected to.

“Our investigators have been combing through every image, video and communication since Operation Arkstone began, to find and bring to justice those who carelessly abuse and forever traumatise our children,” D/Supt. McQuillan said.

“We are continuing to examine the evidence seized throughout the investigation and have not ruled out the possibility of further arrests.”

The 26-year-old Lane Cove man was bail refused and remanded in custody to appear in Hornsby Local Court today.

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.

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