Tinderbox!

As any Australian knows, one of the harbingers of summer is the bushfire season story: “the state is a tinderbox!”  On reading the stories (1) and (2) about the recent internet child pornography arrests, I wonder if we have a new type of seasonal story on our hands.

At one indent below is the short form of the story, as it first hit the presses. At two indents I have interpolated its later version.  I have added my own emphases in bold for comment, together with numerical references to notes below.

A former police officer and two teachers (1) are among six men police say are implicated in the Australia wide child porn ring raided overnight.

A FORMER policeman, a swimming instructor and a student teacher (1) are alleged to be members of a pedophile ring that sought to groom children for internet pornography.

The alleged Australian network, which police say had links to others overseas, comprised six men and a 17-year-old youth, all of whom were arrested in an operation by NSW, Queensland, Victorian and federal police yesterday.

NSW Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad Commander Helen Begg said police were tipped off in February by another government department.

Superintendent Begg said Strike Force Pymont was formed following information provided to police by a NSW government department, but she declined to nominate which agency.

Six men were arrested and charged with various offences including disseminating and producing child pornography.

“The offenders that were arrested came from all walks of life including those in positions of trust,” (2) Supt Beg told reporters in Sydney today.

The commander of the NSW Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad, Detective Superintendent Helen Begg, said she was alarmed that three of the four men arrested in NSW, all from regional areas, had been in positions of trust (2) in the community.

Among those arrested are a former police officer, a trainee teacher and a swimming teacher (2) as well as a truck driver.

One of those arrested, David Bruce Lindley Elliott, 55, of Orange, is currently awaiting sentence after last month pleading guilty to charges laid in June last year of using a carriage service to transmit child pornography.

Elliott, an unemployed swimming instructor, faced Orange Local Court yesterday on 10 fresh charges of producing and disseminating child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. He was refused bail to reappear before the court today.

At the same time three other men were facing NSW courts after their arrests in raids by 59 detectives from Strike Force Pymont, which was established in February to investigate the scope of the alleged network.

…[this ellipsis stands for a part of the second article which was not in the same sequence as the first article]

In Wagga Wagga court yesterday, Matthew DeMartin, a 22-year-old student teacher, of Griffith, was refused bail. He will reappear there today charged with one count each of disseminating and producing child pornography and possessing child pornography.

A Coonabarabran truck driver, Chris Trindall, 29, faced Tamworth Local Court following his arrest in the town on Saturday afternoon. He was refused bail and will appear before that court today charged with two counts of disseminating and producing child pornography.

Police said a 31-year-old man from the inner-Sydney suburb of Rosebery, whose home was raided, was charged with drug offences and released on police bail to appear before Waverley Local Court on January 23.

In the interstate operation, police arrested a 49-year-old Melbourne man who had been charged with using a carriage service and two counts of possessing child pornography.

In Queensland, detectives arrested a 17-year-old male (3), who has been charged with using a carriage service for child pornography material.

Supt Begg said it was “very frightening” that there were people who were willing to abuse their positions within society to gain the trust (2) of children.

One of the men arrested, a 38-year-old from South West Rocks on the NSW mid north coast also has been charged with grooming (4) a child to take part in the abuse.

As Elliott was appearing in the Orange court yesterday, a 38-year-old former policeman, Gregory John Minehan, was appearing before Port Macquarie Local Court charged with 14 counts of using a carriage service to transmit child pornography.

Minehan, who was arrested at his home at South West Rocks, was further charged with four counts of disseminating child pornography, six counts of possessing child pornography, one count each of using a carriage service to groom a child aged under 16 and producing child pornography (4).

He was refused bail (4) and will reappear before Port Macquarie Local Court today.

His and Elliott’s homes were among nine premises raided in the operation, in which police said thousands of images had been seized.

Supt Begg said police were “not aware of any contact offences that have occurred during the course of the (11 month) operation”.(4)

Police believe most of the child pornography was produced overseas and it was being collated and then distributed in Australia, but they say they are still examining large quantities of computer equipment and footages.

Police said some of the children involved were infants but their ages ranged up to 16 years (5).

Commander Kevin Zuccato, from the Australian Federal Police’s Hi-Tech Operations Centre, said 59 police officers had been involved in the operation over the last couple of days across Australia (6).

He also said the investigation should lead to further arrests overseas.

The arrests followed an 11-month investigation by Strike Force Pymont.

Superintendent Begg said the undercover operation was likely to lead to further arrests.

Commander Kevin Zuccato, the head of the Australian Federal Police high-tech operations centre, which took part in the raids, foreshadowed some of those arrests taking place abroad, although he would not say where.

“We will allege this syndicate was involved in the production and distribution of child pornography. However, there are many more exhibits, including computers and discs, still to undergo forensic examination,” Superintendent Begg said.

“Police will also allege that the risk of future harm to children has been minimised as a result of this investigation. We uncovered information which indicates this network spreads across the country and internationally, not only sharing illicit material but also using the network to identify potential victims and avoid detection by law enforcement agencies (7).

“Our investigation should serve as a warning to those people engaged in this type of criminal activity. You can’t hide behind the anonymity of the internet. We have the technology and skills to covertly monitor your usage of the computer and you will be tracked down and charged.”

Commander Zuccato said the arrests were a stark reminder to parents and children to remain vigilant, particularly during school holidays, (8) about who they provide with their details via the internet and who they associate with over the holidays.

Notes

  1. “Two teachers” turned out to be an unemployed (for obvious reasons) swimming instructor and a student teacher.
  2. Abusing positions of trust is a big theme here, even though the only charge so far of anything approaching this is on-line grooming by the former policeman – hardly a situation where he was in a position to abuse a position of trust.  However, I think this theme works well to whip up fear in a kind of Alger-Hiss way.  (OK, I know, Alger Hiss could have been guilty as charged…)
  3. 17?  Practically a child himself! It appears from the police press release that he was arrested in August.
  4. “Grooming” over the internet is likely to become one of those categories of offences like attempt, or conspiracy,which I predict will test the limits of the criminal law.  The police have taken 11 months to investigate this (though there is some suggestion in The Australian of a relatively recent breakthrough), are not aware of any contact offences and have taken the man’s computer.  It seems rather heavy handed that bail was refused. Could it be in order to avoid a repetition of the rash of suicides (reported as 6) which occurred when Operation Auxin hit the headlines?
  5. This seems logically trivial: the children were up to 16 years old because older than that they wouldn’t be children.
  6. 7 arrests; 59 officers?  That seems like a lot of police overtime to me.
  7. This seems calculated to feed the conspiracy/paranoia mania.  Of course these people use the internet in the way that they do in order to escape detection.  I don’t think that makes their conduct any more wicked.  As to identifying potential victims, there only seems to be the one grooming offence alleged at this stage.
  8. Tinderbox! 

Afterword

Further reporting of this includes:

Eight separate raids by 69 officers over the weekend resulted in six arrests plus the seizure of computers and equipment containing thousands of images of child porn.

Officers posed as children on the internet to infiltrate the network during a police sting operation.

Mr Keelty said some children abused in the paedophile ring were Australian.

Subject to Mr Keelty’s final comment being made good, this suggests that the subject of the “grooming” offence may have been a police officer. 

One Response to “Tinderbox!”

  1. Marcel, you are a gem… « Floating Life Says:

    […] doesn’t just touch it; he vivisects it. Go to Tinderbox! I couldn’t have done that, Marcel; it’s brilliant, and of the greatest importance for […]

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