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    A major online paedophile network has allegedly been discovered with Police laying sexual touching and child abuse material charges.

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      Child Abuse Material and Sexual Touching Charges Laid in Major Paedophile Ring Bust

      A nationwide investigation into a major online paedophile network has allegedly discovered hordes of child abuse material with Police laying sexual touching charges against multiple men.

      The AFP and NSW Police have arrested 14 men and charged them with 828 child sex offences.

      Shockingly, it has been suggested that a childcare worker from the NSW Mid-North Coast abused 16 children from the same childcare centre where he was employed.

      The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that along with the arrests, they have made 146 tip-offs to authorities in Europe, Asia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

      The alleged offenders are accused of producing and sharing child abuse material to a wide-reaching online network in Australia and overseas. There were also bestiality charges laid in relation to four animals.

      What We Know

      The AFP began investigating after the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) in February 2020 received a report from the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children about an online user allegedly uploading child abuse material.

      This turned out to be 30-year-old Central Coast man Justin Radford. He was subsequently charged with 89 offences including sexual touching of a victim under 10 years old, and producing and disseminating child abuse material.

      Four months later in June 2020, 27-year-old Timothy Doyle was arrested along with his 22-year-old partner Steven Garrad on the Mid-North Coast.

      Mr Doyle was been charged with a staggering 303 offences based on allegations that he abused up to 30 children. The charges included sexual intercourse with child under 10 and production of child abuse material.

      “Police will allege the man used his position as a childcare worker, and other deceptive means in his personal life, to gain access to 30 children. The man’s partner, a 22-year-old man, also allegedly abused children his partner accessed through deceptive means in his personal life,” the AFP said in a media release.

      NSW Police Force Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said it will be alleged all three men gained access to their victims through their jobs.

      “One of the key allegations for all three of these offenders is offending in a position of authority,” he said.

      Further Child Abuse Material Arrests

      There have since been further arrests of men aged 20 to 48 which included Grant Harden – a volunteer soccer coach from St Clair in Sydney’s west.

      27-year-old Jake Caldwell was also arrested at Seaforth in Sydney’s north and charged him with four offences of possessing child abuse material. Others included a disability support worker, an electrician and a chef.

      It is understood that the parents of all alleged victims were been notified. In all, 46 children were alleged to have been abused by members of the ring. The alleged victims are said to be aged between 16 months and 15 years.

      Child Abuse Material Arrests in Australia and Abroad

      Arrests have also been made in Queensland and Western Australia. There were also three men arrested in the United States as a result of the investigation.

      Police have laid 30 charges against three men in Queensland with one child victim identified, and 221 charges laid against three men with six child victims identified in WA.

      The Assistant Commissioner of the AFP Eastern Command, Justine Gough spoke to media outlets after the arrests. She described the offending as “a complex and inter-related web of criminality”.

      She also suggested that each arrest had led to further information:

      “Search warrants and evidence gathering at every arrest have led to the unravelling of a criminal network, each one leading to the discovery of alleged offenders and more children to be saved from ongoing abuse.”

      Assistant Commissioner Gough said Police, “discovered social media forums where child offenders were producing, sharing and trading aberrant child abuse material with their criminal peers. We’ve not ruled out further arrests in Australia or offshore, or sadly, the identification of further victims in Australia and offshore.”

      “No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the people they trust — whether that’s a family member, a child care worker or a soccer coach…Sadly and heartbreakingly this has been the case for the victims of Operation Arkstone.”

      Adam Parks from United States Homeland Security Investigations said three people have been arrested in the US in connection with the alleged network.

      “This is a borderless crime and it requires a borderless response,” he said.

      Possess Child Abuse Material Lawyers

      Section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) sets out that if you have custody and control of child abuse material, you can be guilty of an offence.

      Child abuse material is defined as material that depicts or describes in a way reasonable people would consider offensive:

      1. A person who appears to be a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or
      2. A person who appears to be a child involved in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
      3. A person who appears to be a child in the presence of another person who is engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
      4. The private parts of a person who appears to be a child which include the genital or anal area, or breasts of a female.

      To determine if a reasonable person would consider something offensive, the court will assess:

      1. The standards of morality and decency generally accepted by reasonable adults,
      2. The artistic or education relevance of the material,
      3. The journalistic relevance of the material for a record or report of public interest, and
      4. The general character of the material

      Looking at statistics for child abuse material sentencing over the last 5 years, no person has avoided a criminal conviction for this offence. In relation to the NSW offence, 80% of offenders were sentenced to some form of imprisonment. 64% of offenders received a sentence of full-time imprisonment.

      Possess child abuse material charges are extremely serious. The stigma that comes with them is likely to follow a person for the rest of their life.

      That is why it is important to obtain advice from a specialist criminal lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of these charges. You can read about some recent cases here.

      Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email info@astorlegal.com.au.

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