A large-scale investigation into a major pedophile network has uncovered horrific details, including the revelation 16 children were allegedly sexually abused by a former worker at a childcare centre on the NSW Mid-North Coast.
The 16 children are among 46 Australian victims who have been identified during the Australian Federal Police-led investigation, dubbed Operation Arkstone.
Police have arrested 14 men believed to be behind the sickening abuse in NSW, QLD, WA and the US, who have been charged with 828 charges of child exploitation, along with bestiality charges related to four animals.
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According to the AFP, the alleged offenders, who range in age from 20 to 48 years, are accused of producing and or sharing the child abuse material to an online network of people in Australia and overseas.
One alleged member of the network, a 27-year-old former childcare worker from the NSW town of Kendall, has been charged with multiple counts of contact offending, including sexual intercourse with a child under 10 years, indecent assault of a child under 16 years and intentionally sexually touching a child under 10 years.
He is facing more than 303 charges, which are due to be heard in Port Macquarie Court on 21 January 2021.
Police allege the man used his position as a child care worker, and other “deceptive means” in his personal life, to gain access to 30 children.
“The man’s partner, a 22-year-old man, also allegedly abused children his partner accessed through deceptive means in his personal life,” AFP said.
All parents and carers of children enrolled at the centre were notified of an investigation and police said investigators have already made contact with the parents and carers of the victims.
The 46 child victims ranged in age from 16 months to 15 years.
As a result of the investigation, officers have also identified alleged child sex offenders residing in Europe, Asia, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, with 146 international referrals made.
AFP Acting Commander Child Protection Operations Christopher Woods said the scale of offending uncovered in the Operation Arkstone network was unprecedented in an AFP-led operation.
“No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from people who hold high positions of trust in their lives, whether it be a family member, child care worker or soccer coach,” he said.
“These men allegedly produced child abuse material for the depraved pleasure of their peers with absolutely no thought to the lasting effects their actions would have on these children.
“Police will allege Operation Arkstone revealed a network of abuse, where the alleged offenders in the forums encouraged and emboldened each other to engage in acts of depravity and abuse of children.”
Investigations are continuing.
If you are in immediate danger call 000 now. If you require advice or assistance, the following services offer counselling and support:
Lifeline 24/7 telephone crisis support 13 11 14
1800RESPECT 24/7 phone 1800 737 732
Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence phone 07 5591 1164
Bravehearts phone 1800 272 831