A Catholic priest in Sydney’s inner west and a police officer have been charged after an investigation into alleged possession and distribution of child abuse material.
The charges follow an investigation by the Professional Standards Command in May, following reports that child abuse material was being stored and distributed on an electronic device.
It led to the arrest of 62-year-old Father Joseph Kolodziej, who was taken to Burwood police station and charged with possessing child abuse material and using a carriage service for child abuse material.
The former parish priest at All Hallows Catholic Parish Five Dock, was requested to step down from his public role at the parish and its neighbouring primary school.
Mr Kolodziej had previously been the parish priest at St Mary Queen of Heaven in Georges Hall, which he left for his most recent position in Five Dock in late January of this year.
In that role, he was a leader of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School Georges Hall.
It is alleged that the child abuse material was found on his phone.
Mr Kolodziej is due to face Burwood Local Court on July 13.
Police executed a further search warrant at a Georges Hall address after they charged Mr Kolodziej.
At the scene, they arrested a 49-year-old police sergeant attached to a specialist command and seized electronic storage devices.
The officer was taken to Liverpool police station and charged with possessing child abuse material.
He remains unnamed and is reportedly suspended with pay at this stage.
He is due to face Liverpool Local Court on June 21.
Child abuse material offences have risen almost 30% over the last 24 months, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
In New South Wales, section 91FB of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) defines “child abuse material” as material that depicts or describes, in a way that reasonable person would regard as being, in all the circumstances, offensive, such as:
- A person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child as a victim of torture, cruelty, or physical abuse,
- A person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child engaged in or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity (whether or not in the presence of other persons),
- A person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child in the presence of another person who is engaged or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- The private parts of a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child.
Matters to be taken into account in deciding whether reasonable persons would regard particular material as being, in all the circumstances, offensive, include:
- the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults,
- the literary, artistic, or educational merit (if any) of the material,
- the journalistic merit (if any) of the material, being the merit of the material as a record or report of a matter of public interest, and
- the general character of the material (including whether it is of a medical, legal, or scientific character).
A ‘child’ means a person under the age of 16 years.
Pursuant to section 91H, production, dissemination or possession of child abuse material is criminalised.
‘Possession’ includes physical custody or control of material or data.
- Sending, supplying, exhibiting, transmitting, or communicating to another
- Making available for access by another, and
- Entering an agreement or arrangement to do so.
- filming, photographing, printing or otherwise making,
- altering or manipulating, and
- entering an agreement or arrangement to do so.
The maximum penalty applicable if found guilty of the offence is 10 years imprisonment.
During sentencing, general deterrence is a paramount consideration for offences involving child abuse/child pornography material (R v Booth  NSWCCA 89).
Furthermore, it has been held that as the offence of possessing child pornography is frequently committed by persons of prior good character, it is legitimate for a court to give less weight to good character as a mitigating factor.
Other factors considered when assessing the severity of the offence include whether actual children are present in the material, the nature and content of the material, including the age of the children and the gravity of the sexual activity portrayed and the number of images or items of material.
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