10 April 2024

Canberra 'not immune' to offenders accessing child abuse material, police say after raids

| Albert McKnight
old man under arrest

Police have charged two men after recent raids targetting alleged sexual offending. Screenshot: ACT Policing.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses child abuse.

A detective inspector has warned that Canberra is “not immune” to the problem of offenders seeking to access child abuse material while also discussing the impact these sorts of crimes can have on the investigators trying to stamp them out.

“It is obviously a very confronting crime type,” ACT Policing’s Detective Inspector Stephanie Leonard said on Tuesday (9 April).

“Our officers have to review the volumes of data seized from these warrants, which sometimes contain in excess of 100,000 images and videos of this type of offending, so we do everything we can to support them.”

Between 25 March and 5 April, ACT Policing conducted four raids across Canberra targeting the alleged sexual exploitation of children, during which they arrested a 26-year-old man at his home in Downer.

“A cursory review of the 26-year-old’s electronic devices and cloud-based storage revealed the presence of thousands of files which depicted young children, described as the more severe side of child sexual abuse,” Detective Inspector Leonard said.

“This type of offending is some of the most heinous and confronting events that we encounter.”

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She said she would not describe the operation as a crackdown as police had always been dedicated to combating this type of offending.

“What I would say is with advances in technology and the Internet, [that] has made this material more accessible to a greater proportion of people,” she said.

“Unfortunately, as a result, we’ve seen more people accessing the material. It does allow us to then identify those that are accessing it and transmitting it. So, whilst advancements have made it easier, it’s also made it easier for police to identify these offenders.

“Unfortunately, Canberra is not immune to the issue. It is an issue across the country.”

person photographing electronic devices

Officers take photos of devices seized during their raids between 25 March and 5 April. Screenshot: ACT Policing.

The 26-year-old arrested during the raids was charged with the alleged possession and transmission of child abuse material and had his bail refused when he faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday (5 April).

A different search warrant saw a 52-year-old Curtin man summonsed to appear before the courts in relation to the alleged cultivation of cannabis, possession of a firearm and possession of cash suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

No arrests were made on the other two warrants, and no children needed to be rescued during the operation.

However, electronic devices like laptops, mobile phones, and micro SD cards were seized across the four warrants for further analysis.

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Detective Inspector Leonard said the investigations were ongoing and additional charges were likely, although police currently did not believe there were any links between the four individuals.

“Police understand that these matters are very difficult and sensitive for victims. However, I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of this type of offending or any child sexual abuse to report the matter to police,” she said.

“It is never too late to report these crimes.”

The detective inspector had a message for anyone accessing this type of material.

“If you engage in this type of offending, expect to have members of ACT Police knocking on your door,” she said.

“This offending, whilst often sophisticated in nature, is not undetectable and you will be caught.

“It doesn’t matter if you view one image or thousands of images; children are being harmed in the production and transmission of this material.”

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in the possession or sharing of child exploitation material can 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.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:

Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 or kidshelpline.com.au
MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au.

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