A 34-year-old Victorian man was convicted and sentenced in the County Court at Melbourne for having transmitted child pornography material and using a carriage service to menace, harass and cause offence via Facebook in mid-2016.
The offending related to the ‘trolling’ of an Australian actress via Facebook. The victim was specifically targeted by the Offender, Luke Wallis of Golden Square, because of media interest arising out of her allegations of historical sexual abuse during her time working on an Australian television production as a child in the 1980s.
Between 3 June 2016 and 9 August 2016, Mr Wallis created and operated various Facebook pages and used those pages to post messages and images on the victim’s public Facebook page. Some of the relevant posts related directly to the victim’s own allegations of sexual abuse while others related, more generally, to prominent sex offenders, paedophilia or sexual abuse. Each of the relevant posts were capable of being viewed and accessed by any Facebook user accessing the public page.
One of the posts published by the Offender in July 2016 described a six month old infant being subjected to acts of humiliation and abuse. This text constituted child pornography material.
On 19 July 2016, the AFP commenced enquiries in relation to a report received from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). On 11 August 2016, members of the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) executed a search warrant at Mr Wallis’ property where he was arrested and bailed to appear before the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court the following day.
Mr Wallis entered a plea of guilty on 1 February 2016 in the County Court of Victoria in Bendigo and was later convicted and sentenced by Her Honour Judge Lawson in the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne on 18 August 2017. Mr Wallis was sentenced as follows:
- In respect of the “Use carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence” contrary to s474.17(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth) offence, Mr Wallis was convicted and sentenced to a 3-year Community Correction Order with mandatory conditions and additional conditions relating to unpaid community service (200 hours), supervision and participation in mental health assessment and treatment as directed.
- In respect of the “Use a carriage service to transmit child pornography” pursuant to s474.19(1)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code (Cth) offence, Mr Wallis was convicted and sentenced to 3 months’ imprisonment. Mr Wallis was directed to be released forthwith (immediately) upon his entering into a Recognisance Release Order ($1000 recognisance, to be of good behaviour for three years) pursuant to s 20(1)(b) Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).
As a result of relevant prior matters, Mr Wallis was already a registered sex offender. He remains subject to the reporting obligations set out in the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 (Vic) for the remainder of his life.
Her Honour Judge Lawson – Excerpts from Sentencing Remarks (18 August 2017)
- “Mr Wallis, the offending is serious. You exploited the anonymity of the internet by posing under different names some of which have been associated with past serious sexual criminal behaviour to harass [the victim].” 
- “[This] is a serious example of using a carriage service to menace and your behaviour must be condemned. Although the [child pornography] was text based and there is no victim as such, nonetheless the content is serious and is depraved, and you will be punished accordingly.” 
- “I have had regard to the public nature of your offending, the passage of time over which you offended, between 3 June 2016 and 9 August 2016, and the fact that you offended not long after you had completed your previous Community Correction Order.” 
- “This offending indicates that you do lack real insight into the effect of your offending behaviour and sexual offences generally. In sentencing you there is a real need to emphasise denunciation, general and specific deterrence.” 
- “Ultimately, I have formed the view that the most appropriate disposition is one that ensures that you are treated and supervised by specialists in the community.” 
Harassment and bullying via social media applications and the internet, colloquially known as ‘trolling’, is capable of amounting to criminal offending. Members of the online community deserve to be protected from this sort of behaviour. Those people who rely on the anonymity provided by the internet to menace and cause significant distress to others in this way should be deterred by the efforts of law enforcement and prosecution agencies in this matter and by the sentences imposed. This kind of conduct will be investigated by law enforcement agencies, including by the Australian Federal Police, and may ultimately be prosecuted by the CDPP.
Further, depending on the matters depicted or described in online posts, this matter reinforces the fact that text-based material is capable, in and of itself (without images or videos), of falling within the definition of child pornography material as set out in the Criminal Code (Cth).
To obtain the full judgment in this matter contact the relevant court.