The exploitation of children has been facilitated and enhanced by the availability of the internet.
Offences targeting those who exploit children via services such as the internet, telephone and the post are contained in Commonwealth legislation, which creates a number of offences relating to child pornography material, child abuse material, and grooming and procuring persons under the age of 16 to engage in, or submit to, sexual activity.
Telecommunications based child exploitation offences cover the range of activities a person can engage in when using the internet, email, mobile phones and other applications to deal with child pornography and child abuse material.
These activities include viewing, copying, downloading, sending, exchanging material and making available for viewing, copying or downloading. They also include offences for using a carriage service to engage in sexual activity with a child, or causing a child to engage in sexual activity with another person.
Grooming and procuring
Grooming and procuring offences are targeted at offenders, who use the anonymity of the internet to win the trust of a child as a first step to future sexual abuse of the child, and to allow law enforcement to intervene before a child is actually assaulted.
Offences are increasingly becoming more sophisticated through the use of networks to distribute material, encryption and online access. Cases can involve hundreds of thousands of depraved and disturbing images of children and the scale and seriousness of this industry poses challenges for investigation and prosecution.
Dealing with such material requires investigators, prosecutors and courts to hear or read stories of a disturbing nature and may involve viewing pornographic movies, photos and/or graphic material depicting explicit sexual acts involving serious harm to children.
- We have established an Employee Wellbeing Programme designed to implement practical policies and guidelines to support employees who may be at risk of experiencing trauma as a result of exposure to potentially distressing materials.
Prosecuting child exploitation
Prosecuting these offences often involves complex technical and evidentiary issues. We work closely with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and other law enforcement agencies in this area.
Sex offences committed outside Australia
Division 272 of the Criminal Code focuses on child sex offences committed outside Australia by Australian citizens and permanent residents, ranging from possessing child pornography and child abuse material to engaging in sexual activity overseas with children under the age of 16.
It is also an offence to encourage or benefit from these types of offences or to do an act preparatory to committing a child sex tourism offence.
- s.474.19(1) Criminal Code—use carriage service for child pornography material
- s.474.26(1) Criminal Code—use carriage service to procure person under 16 years of age
- s.474.27A(1) Criminal Code—use carriage service to transmit indecent communication to person under 16 years of age
- s.233BAB(5) Customs Act 1901—importation of tier 2 goods
High maximum penalties for some offences reflect the community’s abhorrence of the exploitation of children.
There are higher maximum penalties for aggravated offences, such as where the offending conduct takes place on three or more occasions and involves two or more people, or where the sexual activity involves a child with a mental impairment or a child who is under the care, supervision or authority of the defendant.
- The maximum penalty for using a carriage service for child pornography material and using a carriage service to procure persons under 16 years of age is 15 years’ imprisonment.
- The maximum penalty for using a carriage service to transmit indecent communication to person under 16 years of age is 7 years’ imprisonment.
- The maximum penalty for importing tier 2 goods is 10 years’ imprisonment.