28 August 2022

Man avoids jail for posting pornographic images of 12-year-old boy on social media

| Albert McKnight

Oliver James Simonetti leaves court on Friday after he was sentenced to an intensive corrections order. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A man already sentenced for similar crimes has been spared going back to jail for posing as a young girl to get pornographic photos from a 12-year-old boy, then sharing those images on social media.

Oliver James Simonetti was 18 years old in 2016 when he pretended to be a 14-year-old girl called ‘Olivia’, chatted to the boy and requested he send him the images.

The boy did so, sending him seven photos, but when he tried to stop what was happening, Simonetti passed the images on to the boy’s friends and published them on Instagram so other children from the boy’s school saw them.

Simonetti told the boy he would take them down if the boy gave him pornographic videos. His victim complied. Then Simonetti sent two videos to the boy’s friends.

He was also handed charges over other victims, including where he threatened a girl that he’d go to her house and tie up her mother if she didn’t get the boy to communicate with him.

The girl showed the messages to her mother who reported them to police. Simonetti’s home was raided in November 2016 and police seized an iPhone containing four images and 11 videos of child abuse material.

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Justice Michael Elkaim told the ACT Supreme Court this material was very pornographic.

He said these offences were probably a little more serious than the similar ones he had sentenced Simonetti over in 2018.

Back then, the then-20-year-old Simonetti was handed a two-and-a-half year jail sentence, suspended after nine months, over charges that included using a carriage service to transmit, solicit and distribute child pornography material.

These crimes included him sending a young woman photographs of herself wearing little clothing taken years earlier, and threatening to disseminate them to people.

When she asked how he got a revealing photo of her, he told her, “Revenge porn sites are great. Your life ends now. You have until my sh-y internet loads to stop me”.

While Justice Elkaim said the charges he was dealing with on Friday (26 August) showed the offences that had been dealt with in 2018 were “not isolated in nature”, Friday’s offences had actually been committed before the 2018 ones.

The court heard Simonetti hadn’t committed more offences since leaving jail, had completed a sex offenders program, maintained a stable lifestyle with family and friends and sought counselling.

His counsellor said he had learnt from the errors of his past, a psychologist said he was deeply regretful of his actions and was unlikely to engage in such “abhorrent” behaviour again, while a social worker said they were impressed by his ability to take responsibility for his actions.

In a character reference, his mother said he had told her, “Mum, I did this. I have to deal with it”.

She also talked about the impact his offences had on their family. For instance, dolls covered in red paint had been found in their courtyard and an envelope with pictures of teenage pornography was put in their letterbox.

Simonetti told the court he had completed a commerce degree, but found it difficult to get a job due to his criminal history.

“These factors do not excuse any of my actions, but I want to share what I have come to understand is part of the context of my actions, such as making someone else, anyone else, feel as bad as I was at the time,” he said about his offending.

“I realise now that this was an inexcusable reaction to what was happening to me and that I should have sought professional help.”

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Even though these matters preceded the 2018 ones, he was only charged in December 2021. Justice Elkaim said all offences should have been dealt with together.

He said he had no doubt the victims’ experiences were “awful and terrifying” and the community should know that unless there were very special circumstances, offences of this type will result in an offender going straight from the court to jail.

But he said this was a rare case where it might be said that rehabilitation had been successful and there were such special circumstances.

Simonetti, who has already been placed on the sex offenders register for life, pleaded guilty to charges of using a carriage service to cause child pornography material to be transmitted to himself, using a carriage service to make a threat to kill and using a carriage service to menace.

He was sentenced to about two years and one month’s jail to be served in the community via an intensive corrections order that ends in October 2024.

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