NSW man charged with grooming teenage boy online

An Illawarra man is set to appear in Wollongong Local Court today (16 February, 2024) charged with online child abuse-related offences.

AFP Child Protection Operations officers arrested the man, 61, at a property in Lake Heights, near Wollongong, yesterday (15 February, 2024).

The AFP will allege the man used social media to engage in conversations with who he believed was a 14-year-old male in the United Kingdom, grooming him for sexual activity and transmitting child abuse material.

The man was actually engaging with a police undercover operative.

The arrest was the result of an investigation which began when the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) received a report from AFP’s London Post about an UK investigation into an Australian man accused of engaging in online child sexual exploitation.

Police inquiries allegedly linked the NSW man to the illegal online activity.

A search warrant was executed at the man’s Lake Heights home yesterday (February 15, 2024), where investigators allegedly found child abuse material and records of online communications with the boy stored on a computer. The computer was seized for further forensic examination.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Jeremy Staunton said the investigation highlighted how closely police around the world worked together to combat the exploitation and abuse of children.

“Our common goal is to protect children, wherever they live, and to ensure anyone who tries to harm them is identified and brought before the courts,” he said.

“We are committed to stopping any Australian who wishes to exploit the innocence of children -either living in their community or on the other side of the world – to fulfil their own selfish desires.

“The AFP has strong working relationships with international partners, and this investigation shows how effective law enforcement cooperation is when identifying offenders in different parts of the world.”

The Illawarra man was charged with:

  • One count of using a carriage service to prepare or plan to engage in sexual activity with a person under 16 years of age, contrary to section 474.25C of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
  • One count of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material, contrary to section 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is 15 years’ imprisonment; and
  • One count of failed to comply with reporting obligation, contrary to section 17(1) of the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (NSW).

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE at www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available at www.accce.gov.au/support.

Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety. Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

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