CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses child abuse.
A rising star in the elite BMX world jailed for demanding nude photos from several underage girls won’t be granted bail ahead of an appeal of his sentence, with a justice saying that his prospects of a successful appeal appeared to be “very low”.
Rhys Karl Kember was sentenced to three years’ jail by the ACT Supreme Court in June. But Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the 34-year-old he only had to serve eight months before being released on a recognisance release order in February 2023.
Kember plans to appeal his sentence, arguing it is manifestly excessive, and represented himself when he made a bid for bail on Thursday (6 September) where the prosecution argued the time he had to serve in jail was less than a quarter of his full sentence.
Kember, who lived on the Sunshine Coast before entering custody, argued there were special and exceptional circumstances, such as not being able to have his appeal heard before all of the eight months had been served.
He said he had been his father’s primary carer before being jailed as he had Alzheimer’s. While his father had been set up with the NDIS, his condition had worsened since Kember entered custody.
Also, he said his partner was a Russian citizen who had been in the country on a COVID bridging visa and the stress of trying to take care of “all of the bills” as well as his father while in a different country was taking its toll and she had booked in to get mental health support.
However, Crown prosecutor Cecilia Pascoe argued there was little to no prospect Kember’s appeal would be successful.
She said the chief justice had made findings in his favour, like saying there was a relatively low seriousness to his offences and noting the hardship faced by his father.
Justice David Mossop accepted there were special or exceptional circumstances in how the eight months Kember had to serve would have ended by the time the appeal was heard.
But he also said due to the number of offences, the facts relating to them and the information put before him for the bail application it could not be said the prospects of the appeal were “anything other than very low”.
He also said the evidence did not establish the circumstances of his father were now significantly worse than when sentenced and the stressors faced by his partner were not outside what was normally expected when one member of a couple was incarcerated. He ultimately refused bail.
The first victim was 13 when she met Kember while he was in his late 20s and he began regularly asking her to send him nude photos of herself while they were talking over the social media application Snapchat.
Sometimes he’d make comments like, “If you really care for me, you’ll send me this”. He also directed her on how to take certain photos.
Police ultimately found 43 child abuse images of this girl on his mobile phone.
Kember also asked two 15-year-old girls for photos in exchange for alcohol. When one refused, he went onto her Instagram account, took screenshots of photos she had uploaded that showed her in her swimmers and told her, “you post photos like this, but you won’t even send photos to someone who has been in your life for ages”.
Police found eight photos of her in her swimmers on his phone which were classified as child abuse material.
Another girl was 16 when Kember initially encouraged her to send him an explicit photo, but she laughed it off. He continued to ask, while also sending her naked photos of himself, and police found four child abuse images of this girl on his phone.
Kember pleaded guilty to three charges relating to soliciting child abuse material, as well as to single counts of using a carriage service to procure a person under 16, transmitting indecent material to a person under 16 and possessing child abuse material.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.