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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC criminal paedophilia investigations reveal relentless threat of online predators – 26.03.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC criminal paedophilia investigations reveal relentless threat of online predators – 26.03.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC criminal paedophilia investigations reveal relentless threat of online predators – 26.03.2013

CMC criminal paedophilia investigations reveal relentless threat of online predators – 26.03.2013

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC), in the wake of two successful criminal paedophilia prosecutions that reveal the relentless threat posed by internet-based predators, is urging parents to remain vigilant to the reality of paedophiles trawling social networking sites and online forums.

The alert follows this month’s Supreme Court convictions of two high-end offenders on the basis of evidence provided by CMC investigations. One offender posed as a teenager in a bid to groom online victims just months after being released from jail on child sex offences and the other, similarly an internet-based predator, moved on to commit contact offences against a 13-year-old boy.

The two male offenders, from Spring Hill and Browns Plains, were separately sentenced to jail terms of five and six years respectively.

They were among 11 CMC criminal paedophilia targets charged with a total of 191 offences relating to possessing, distributing and producing child exploitation material during 2011-12, and the first two people in Queensland to be charged with a new Commonwealth aggravated networking offence (introduced in 2010 and carrying a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment).

Detective Inspector Lance Vercoe, Operations Coordinator, CMC Crime Operations, said the two cases underlined the value of the Cerberus team, a multidisciplinary unit dedicated to investigating criminal paedophilia, with a specific focus on ‘niche’ areas of networked or recidivist extra-familial offending.

‘The Cerberus team casts a particular spotlight on internet-based criminal paedophile networks on the premise that every image and video shared represents a crime scene,’ Detective Inspector Vercoe said.

‘Our priority is to infiltrate these insidious networks, which are global in reach, and move in on offenders before they start grooming children to generate new child exploitation material or take the next step to committing contact offences.

‘The reality, of course, is that while the CMC and the Queensland Police Service, who we work in close partnership with, proactively target these offenders, we rely on parents to maintain open communication with their children about the dangers associated with social networking sites and online forums.’

Detective Inspector Vercoe said parents should not overreact and ban internet access, but talk openly with their children and reinforce the most important message that they never talk or share personal information or images with strangers.

‘Most children understand that it’s not safe to talk to adults who are “strangers” in a park, for example, but online they may not realise the hidden, criminal identity of paedophiles who are often posing as children,’ he said.

‘Sadly, this is typical of the type of offending we see by internet-based paedophiles. They know the language children use and how to impersonate them and what starts out as an innocent conversation can quickly escalate to the point where victims are divulging personal details or sharing photos and video streaming.’

On this point, Detective Inspector Vercoe said one of the two high-end offenders jailed this month had posed as a 13-year-old boy in a bid to groom victims on social networking sites, ultimately persuading a 12-year-old girl to provide naked images of herself.

The target, a 38-year-old Spring Hill man, was arrested by Cerberus investigators outside the State Library of Queensland on 16 February 2011. He was identified using free WIFI connection to share child exploitation material, just four months after being released from jail on child sex offences.

Detective Inspector Vercoe said the Cerberus investigation provided evidence that between December 2010 and February 2011, the offender had accessed approximately 1,150 child exploitation images and videos and shared up to 40 child exploitation files with a network of other paedophiles. He had been released from jail on 15 October 2010.

Appearing before Brisbane’s Supreme Court on 1 March 2013, the Spring Hill man pleaded guilty to five charges, including using a carriage service to access child pornography material, using a carriage service to make available child pornography material, an aggravated offence of making available child pornography material on three or more occasions to two or more people, knowingly possessing child exploitation material, and using a carriage service to cause child pornography material to be transmitted to himself.  He was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

In the second case that resulted in a successful prosecution, Detective Inspector Vercoe said a 27-year-old Browns Plains man was convicted of sodomising and indecently dealing with a 13-year-old boy who he had targeted via an internet chat forum.

The Cerberus investigation also provided evidence that the man – who was arrested on 23 February 2012 with close to 3,800 child exploitation images and videos in his possession – shared more than 1,450 images and videos with up to 94 contacts in an online paedophile network between November 2011 and February 2012. He further transmitted more than 850 child exploitation files via two internet messaging programs over the same period.

Appearing before Brisbane’s Supreme Court on 19 March 2013, the Brown Plains man pleaded guilty to eight charges, including sodomy, two counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16, using a carriage service to access child pornography material, two counts of using a carriage service to transmit child pornography material, an aggravated offence of making available child pornography material on three or more occasions to two or more people, and knowingly possessing child exploitation material. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment.

Detective Inspector Vercoe said one of the biggest challenges for law enforcement in tracking high-end offenders stemmed from ever-changing technology and criminal intent of offenders who constantly devise new ways of contacting each other, share information about law enforcement methodologies and cover their tracks through use of encryption and evidence wiping software.

‘Our message is simple: parents are the first line of defence in protecting their children from internet-based paedophiles who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

‘These criminals prey on the vulnerability of children and if they fail to engage one, they’ll move on to another and another until they get a bite.

‘Once they get a bite and manage to elicit personal information and images/video streams from their victims, they use blackmail to obtain further explicit material, for example by threatening to send information or images to teachers or friends.

‘It should come as no surprise that children simply don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with this and may be too embarrassed to tell their parents or even friends, which is why we’re urging parents to maintain open lines of communication.’

The CMC’s Cerberus team works closely with the Queensland Police Service’s Taskforce Argos, regional child protection investigation units, and interstate and foreign law enforcement agencies.

It is also supported internally by the CMC’s Forensic Computing Unit, which acts once offenders have been apprehended, interrogating computer systems looking for evidence to substantiate charges and identifying information which may lead to the identification of potential victims or other paedophiles.

Since its establishment in 2002, the CMC, as a result of criminal paedophilia investigations has charged 169 offenders with a total of 3,384 charges.* 

Read more about how to protect your children.

*Correction: The final paragraph of the media release was amended on 23 July 2013 to correct the figures used. At the date of issue, the media release read as follows: ‘Since its establishment in 2002, the CMC, as a result of criminal paedophilia investigations specifically targeting internet-based offenders, has charged 121 offenders with a total of 1,090 charges. Further, as a result of broader criminal paedophilia investigations often in partnership with the QPS and other interstate and international law enforcement agencies, the Cerberus team has charged another 60 offenders with a total of 7,471 charges.’

Last updated: 23 July 2013
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