Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Child Exploitation

Child Exploitation

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. There are a number of serious offences involving use of these telecommunications services including; an adult engaging in sexual activity with a child under 16, an adult procuring and grooming a child under 16 for sexual activity, and a person transmitting, accessing and soliciting child abuse or child pornography material of a child under 18 years.

Offences are also committed by Australians against children who are living overseas. This can be in circumstances where the offender travels overseas to engage in sexual activity or where the offences occur over the internet through sexual acts online, The transmission of material or where children are procured and groomed.

A large proportion of this work involves victims, particularly child victims. Prosecutors in this area work closely with investigators and our Witness Assistance Service to ensure that victims are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect. The CDPP Victims of Crime Policy sets out an important framework for engaging with victims of crime and their families, where appropriate.

Telecommunications

The offences in the Criminal Code (Cth) include sexual activity which occurs remotely using technology such as live web-cam and peer-to-peer networks and by causing a child to engage in sexual activity with another person. Telecommunications based child exploitation offences also cover the range of activities a person can engage in when using the internet, mobile phones and other applications to deal with child pornography and child abuse material. These activities include viewing, copying, downloading, sending, exchanging, soliciting and making material available to others.

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 or physical harm of the child and to allow law enforcement to intervene before a child is actually assaulted.

Increasing sophistication

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 deal with chat logs, images, videos and written material of a disturbing nature involving exploitation and harm to children.

Key legislation

Prosecuting child exploitation

The vulnerable witness protections available in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) exist to help to ensure that vulnerable witnesses including child victims are able to give their best evidence. Prosecuting these offences often involves complex technical and evidentiary issues. We work closely with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and State and Territory Police Forces Where offences against State and Territory criminal law are closely associated with the offending CDPP there are arrangements whereby CDPP also prosecutes these offences. Where offences apply to juvenile offenders, special considerations apply to decisions to prosecute charges against persons aged under 18.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse consulted with CDPP and other offices of Public Prosecutions regarding decision making processes for child sex matters. CDPP reviewed guidelines into how certain critical decisions should be made. (Practice Group Instruction HEBP-07) Our policies regarding victims of crime and prosecutions of these offences have also been considered in light of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Child sex offences 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 with children overseas. Division 474 offences may also apply where the technology is used to enable the offence to occur remotely.

It is also an offence to encourage or benefit from these types of offences or to do an act preparing or planning to commit a sex offence against a child overseas. It is an offence for certain offenders with reporting obligations under child protection offender registers to travel overseas without permission.

Main offences

  • s 272.8 and s 272.9 Criminal Code Sexual intercourse/ sexual activity with child outside Australia
  • s 474.25A Criminal Code Using carriage service for sexual activity with a person under 16 years of age
  • s.474.19(1) Criminal Code—use carriage service for child pornography material (material regarding child under 18 years of age)
  • 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.

Penalties

High maximum penalties for some offences reflect the community’s abhorrence of the exploitation of children. Maximum penalties range from 25 years’ imprisonment for Persistent sexual abuse of a child outside Australia - s. 272.11; 15 years’ imprisonment for Accessing child pornography material of a person aged under 18, to 7 years’ imprisonment for using a carriage service to transmit indecent communication to a person under 16 years of age.

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.

  • DPP (Cth) v Beattie [2017] NSWCCA 301
  • R v De Leeuw [2015] NSWCCA 183
  • R v Leask [2013] WASCA 243
  • DPP (Cth) v D’Alessandro [2010] VSCA 60

National Legal Directions

Relevant CDPP policies

Partner agencies