28 November 2023

Over 150 victims depicted in child abuse material man kept on USBs

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

Archer Fergus Dunnicliff, 20, will not have to go to jail as he was handed an intensive corrections order. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A young man caught with nearly 60 files of child abuse material, which tragically depicted over 150 victims, says he is “truly sorry” and avoided being sent to jail when he was sentenced.

Archer Fergus Dunnicliff pleaded guilty to charges of using a carriage service to possess/control and solicit child abuse material before he was sentenced by the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (24 November).

In 2022, he was 19 and was messaging his ex-partner over the social media application Telegram when the latter referenced “pedo stuff” and asked whether he had any “cp”, which means child pornography.

They went on to discuss the sexual abuse of young children. Later, Dunicliff asked his ex to “send cp”.

When police raided Dunicliff’s home in May 2022, he admitted he’d accessed the Dark Web in 2019 to view a chat room for child abuse material to “see what was on it”.

He said he found videos and pictures of the abuse of children and sent links to his ex-partner via Telegram, as his ex had asked for them.

Dunicliff said he’d deleted the files because he did not want them on his computer but admitted looking at the material because “it was interesting” and “it was different”.

He also said he was embarrassed and ashamed that he viewed it and told the officers he had USBs with such material on them.

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Police found he had 59 files of child abuse material on two USBs, depicting 151 different victims. Some victims were as young as six months old.

“It is clear that the material depicted the depraved and heinous sexual abuse of children,” Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson said in her sentencing remarks.

Dunicliff’s lawyers had argued that it was “not a lot of material” compared to other cases.

He had been handed a solicitation charge because he’d asked his ex to “send cp” during their conversation in 2022, but his lawyers also argued he had not been the main driver of this conversation.

However, Justice Loukas-Karlsson said while the ex instigated the conversation, this did not ameliorate Dunicliff’s responsibility.

“The solicitation, passive or otherwise, contributes to an appalling culture of child abuse and exploitation,” she said.

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Dunicliff had been working for Telstra before he was fired when his employer found out about his charges. He has found another casual job and is studying for a Bachelor of IT.

“I realise that my behaviour was not only inappropriate and insensitive but also contributed to the perpetuation of the production of this material and I take full responsibility for this,” he wrote.

“I now feel as if I am a horrible person and that my actions will have people view me as something I am not.”

Justice Loukas-Karlsson accepted there was a causal link between the offences and his stunted psychosocial development and related developmental immaturity.

Dunicliff was convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail, to be served by an intensive corrections order, which is a community-based sentence that ends in November 2025.

The now-20-year-old must also engage with a psychologist and a sex offender program.

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