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A 37-year-old New South Wales man has been sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment for sexually abusing children in the Philippines.
The man was originally arrested at his Chippendale home in July 2021, following reports received by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children about an individual who was producing and uploading child abuse material online.
Investigators from the Australian Federal Police-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation linked the man to the account uploading the material, via email addresses associated with the account.
It also identified at least 13 children the man had abused in the Philippines between 2016 and 2019.
The man was found to have paid for a ‘child sex facilitator’ in the Philippines in order to procure the children, which he utilised to self-produce child abuse material whilst in the foreign country.
He pleaded guilty to 27 offences in July 2022 at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney.
This included nine counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia and fifteen counts of producing child pornography material outside Australia.
The other charges included counts of using a carriage service to possess child abuse material, preparing to engage in sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia, and attempting to engage in sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia.
The man has remained remanded in custody since the time of his arrest and has ultimately been sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 11 years.
“Trying to hide these abhorrent actions by travelling overseas will not stop us from locating offenders, seizing evidence and putting them before the courts,” commented AFP First Constable, Aiden Lister.
The AFP work with State and Territory police forces, other Commonwealth agencies, as well as international law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute these types of offences, whilst also seeking to prevent and disrupt them.
Despite the offences occurring overseas, they can be investigated and prosecuted in Australia.
This is due to how they employ ‘extraterritorial jurisdiction’ or ‘extended geographical jurisdiction’.
This means that if the offender is an Australian citizen or resident of Australia at the time of the offence, the offence will apply even when the offence occurs wholly outside the country.
Division 272 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) criminalises child sex offences outside Australia.
It is an offence to engages in sexual intercourse with a child under 16, where this is engaged in outside Australia, as per section 272.8.
A maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment is applicable.
Where this instead involves ‘sexual activity’ rather than intercourse, the maximum penalty applicable is 15 years imprisonment.
Notably, the Act defines sexual intercourse as the penetration, to any extent, of the vagina or anus of a person by any part of the body of another person or by an object, carried out by another person.
It also includes fellatio or cunnilingus (oral sex).
A defence is available to these offences where the defendant proves that they believed that the child was at least 16, at the time of the sexual intercourse or sexual activity.
However, the onus is on the defence to prove this, and it must be assessed as to whether it was reasonable or not.
As outlined in section 272.11, there is a further offence of persistent sexual abuse of child outside Australia. This will be committed where a person, on 3 or more separate occasions during any period, engages in sexual intercourse or activity with child, or causes a child to engage in sexual intercourse of activity in the presence of the defendant, outside Australia.
The maximum penalty applicable is 25 years imprisonment.
The conduct constituting the underlying offences is not required to be the same on each occasion, but it may also be of a similar nature. It is also not necessary for the prosecution to specify or to prove the dates or exact circumstances of the occasions on which the conduct constituting the offence occurred.
However, the charge must, with reasonable particularity, specify the period of time and the nature of the offences.
Other offences in the division include procuring or grooming a child to engage in sexual activity outside of Australia, and child abuse material related offences.
By Poppy Morandin.