26 March 2023

Man who talked about attacking young girl, swapped child abuse material to 'make friends' avoids jail

| Albert McKnight
three men walking to court, two faces are pixelated

Christopher Alex Middleton (left) approaches court earlier this year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A former fast-food worker who talked about attacking a 13-year-old girl has been sentenced over child abuse material charges.

He said he swapped the material with people online because that was how he made “friends”.

In September 2021, police received a report about child abuse material being accessed on a social media application called Kik.

Christopher Alex Middleton was at his home in Harrison when police raided it that November, seizing his mobile phone and laptop.

Kik was installed on the then-20-year-old’s phone and police saw a conversation on it between Middleton and another user from a few days earlier where they had discussed forcefully confining, assaulting and raping a 13-year-old girl.

Also, the internet history on his phone showed he had visited an account on a data storage website that October and November, an account that contained 220 files of child abuse material.

The shortest of these video files was three seconds long while the longest was 52 minutes. They depicted girls aged between six months to 14 years old.

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When Middleton was asked what his understanding of child abuse material was during the police raid, he replied, “It’s bad. It’s not good”.

He pleaded guilty to charges of using a carriage service for child abuse material as well as possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining child abuse material for use through a carriage service.

The prosecution tendered a sample of the material to the ACT Supreme Court for his sentencing, with Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson remarking in her judgement that, “There are no sufficient words to describe the appalling nature of this material”.

The 22-year-old had worked at a fast-food restaurant until 2022, but he was suspended due to his charges and he then resigned. He now works at a building supplier.

He described himself as being socially isolated and said he would usually only have casual interactions with acquaintances over online platforms.

Clinical psychologist Tabitha Frew provided an opinion for the court, saying she believed he had an undiagnosed and untreated autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the time of the offences. She also said he had the social and emotional understanding of a 15-year-old.

He told her he wasn’t sexually attracted to children and the material was more about “the shock value and doing something I shouldn’t do”.

He also admitted to her that he had 220 files of such material on his devices, but claimed he didn’t watch many of the videos.

“I would say I opened about 20 per cent of the videos just to check they were the [child] abuse material, so I could then swap them with other people online. That is how I made friends,” he told her.

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Middleton wrote a letter for the court in which he said he was “deeply ashamed”.

“I detest the hurt that I have inflicted upon my family. I see them trying to hide it every day and it only makes me feel worse about my actions,” he wrote.

Justice Loukas-Karlsson accepted there was a causal relationship between his ASD and the offending, said he had good prospects of rehabilitation and had engaged in psychological treatment.

She also noted he could not meet the required criteria to be diagnosed as a paedophile and described him as “a socially immature human being”.

Middleton was convicted and sentenced to a three-year intensive corrections order, a community-based sentence. He must also complete 100 hours of community service and was told he could only access the internet under certain conditions.

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