In May 2019, an Adelaide paedophile described as ‘a child’s worst nightmare’ by Judge Chapman in the District Court of South Australia, was jailed for 40 years and three months, with a non-parole period of 28 years.
Ruecha Tokputza (31) abused at least 13 children and pleaded guilty to 50 charges, including the persistent sexual abuse of children and possessing tens of thousands of images and videos of child exploitation material.
Mr Tokputza abused children in Adelaide and Thailand, including a 15-month-old, between June 2011 and his arrest in January 2018. He filmed the abuse, often using his mobile phone, and later shared some of the recorded material with others via a messaging app. He also covertly recorded children getting changed while he was at a local swim centre.
An investigation began when South Australia’s Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) received a report from Interpol. It included the details of an Internet Protocol (IP) address being used to access an email account, which was associated with the administrator of a child exploitation website on the dark web.
With this information from international law enforcement, JACET was able to identify the IP’s subscriber as Mr Tokputza. On 16 January 2018, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) searched Mr Tokputza’s homes, and in one found several digital storage devices with videos and images of him engaged in sexual activity with a number of children.
Child exploitation matters often involve extensive amounts of digital evidence that is offensive and graphic. In such cases, it is imperative that CDPP prosecutors and police limit the amount of exposure they have to damaging materials, and that evidence is collected in a way that protects authorities and the courts from unnecessary viewing of offensive content.
The CDPP worked closely with JACET to determine how they could ensure fair court proceedings, while handling the evidentiary material in an appropriate way.
As a result, the CDPP’s prosecutor viewed a sample of the material provided by JACET to confirm the elements of the proposed charges could be proved, and to understand the seriousness and nature of the offending in relation to each of the 13 victims.
The next challenge facing the prosecution team was striking the right balance between a series of charges that adequately reflected the gravity and depravity of the offending, while providing the court with the proper sentencing scope to impose an appropriate penalty. To address this, the prosecutor categorised the evidence into groups of offending, then into sets of charges that related to individual victims.
Approaching the evidence in this way helped to limit those involved in the case to unnecessary exposure to child exploitation materials, while ensuring the prosecution’s case accurately reflected the criminal behaviour.
This case highlights the importance of partner agency involvement in prosecutions, to ensure the facts ultimately put before the sentencing Judge accurately capture the extensive criminality involved.