SYDNEY, Australia: Police have busted a major online paedophile network involved in child abuse, producing and sharing explicit material globally.
An investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) revealed that 16 children from one NSW Mid-North Coast childcare centre were allegedly sexually abused by a former worker.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the operation was one of Australia’s most significant efforts targeting child exploitation, with 146 tip-offs to authorities in Europe, Asia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
The AFP and NSW Police have arrested 14 men, who are facing a total of 828 charges for child abuse offences.
Police said the alleged offenders are accused of producing and sharing child abuse material to a wide-reaching online network in Australia and globally.
The investigations began in February after the arrest of 30-year-old Central Coast man Justin Radford, who was charged with 89 offences including sexual touching of a victim under 10 and disseminating child abuse material.
In June, 27-year-old Timothy Doyle and his 22-year-old partner Steven Garrad were arrested in the Mid-North Coast town of Kendall and charged with hundreds of offences.
Doyle has been charged with 303 offences relating to the abuse of 30 children, with allegations including sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and the production of child abuse material.
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“The man used his position as a childcare worker, and other deceptive means in his personal life, to gain access to 30 children,” the AFP said in a statement.
“The man’s partner, a 22-year-old man, also allegedly abused children his partner accessed through deceptive means in his personal life.”
The investigation revealed that a total 46 children, aged between 16 months to 15 years, have been abused by the paedophile ring.
Arrests have also been made in Queensland and WA. The Australian men arrested were aged 20 to 48 and include volunteer soccer coach Grant Harden, from St Clair in Sydney’s west, a disability support worker, an electrician and a chef.
Earlier this month, 27-year-old Jake Caldwell was arrested at Seaforth in Sydney’s north and charged with four offences related to possessing and accessing child abuse material.
AFP Assistant Commissioner, Eastern Command, Justine Gough described the ring as “a complex and inter-related web of criminality”.
“Search warrants and evidence gathering at every arrest have led to the unravelling of a criminal network, each one leading to the discovery of alleged offenders and more children to be saved from ongoing abuse,” she said.
Assistant Commissioner Gough said investigators “discovered social media forums where child offenders were producing, sharing and trading aberrant child abuse material with their criminal peers”.
The investigation began after the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) in February received a report from the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children about an online user allegedly uploading child abuse material.
Police have laid 30 charges against three men in Queensland with one child victim identified, and 221 charges laid against three men with six child victims identified in WA.