Hundreds of fresh charges laid in joint police investigation into domestic child abuse network

**Editor's note: Arrest footage and infographics from the mid-north coast operation are available to download via Hightail.

Police have laid about 250 additional state and Commonwealth child abuse charges against two men allegedly involved in a domestic online network of alleged child sex offenders.

The case of two NSW Mid North Coast men – aged 26 and 21 – was heard before the Port Macquarie Local Court on 10 September 2020, where the matter was adjourned until 22 October 2020 to allow police time to lay further charges.

The men were arrested in June 2020 as part of Operation Arkstone, which was launched in early 2020 after a tip-off from the United States' National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to the AFP's Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

On 4 June 2020, investigators from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Eastern Command Child Protection Operations and the New South Wales Police Force Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad and Mid North Coast Police Area Command executed search warrants at premises in the towns of Kendall and Old Bar.

Both men were refused bail and remanded in custody following an appearance before the Kempsey Local Court on 5 June 2020.

The 26-year-old and 21-year-old men now face an additional 190 and 53 state and Commonwealth charges respectively in relation to various child abuse, child abuse material and adult sexual assault matters.

Both men face a potential maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

AFP Eastern Command Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said the additional charges show that police investigations can continue long after initial arrests are made.

"While our first priority is to act quickly to remove children from harm, our investigations continue to uncover the extent of alleged offending and put this evidence before the courts," Detective Superintendent McQuillan said.

Detective Acting Superintendent Chris Goddard, NSW Police State Crime Command's Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad Commander said while getting those who may endanger the community off the streets is important, so too is ensuring they are held accountable to all the crimes they are alleged to have committed.

"Along with our partnering agencies, NSW Police will do everything within our scope to ensure that all victims of heinous crimes such as these are delivered the justice they deserve."

The AFP have been working with the ACCCE and state police in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia on the investigation. Investigations remain ongoing and further arrests and charges have not been ruled out.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.

You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button.

Access online safety information at the ACCCE website.

EDITORS NOTE: Media are reminded of their obligations under s15A of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW) and s105 of the Children and Young Person (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW).

Note to media:

Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL NOT 'CHILD PORNOGRAPHY'

The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

  • indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
  • conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.

Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.

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The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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