Advertisement

Ex-school worker’s whinge after child porn find

COURT- IT WORKER
Michael Thomas Mowbray. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip

A former IT employee at a prestigious Sydney girls school said he is “ashamed to my core” for possessing child abuse material of girls aged as young as 10, and felt his name had been “tainted” when his charges were made public.

Michael Thomas Mowbray was jailed on Wednesday after admitting to possessing 198 images and 103 videos of the shocking material depicting girls aged between 10 and 15.

The 33-year-old was working as an IT specialist at North Sydney Girls High School when he was charged in November 2022.

Court documents revealed he had downloaded three images onto his OneDrive account, which was accessible on his school computer.

An administrator found the images and alerted the school principal, who contacted police.

Police found the entire stash of images and videos on encrypted hard drives at Mowbray’s Richmond home, arresting and charging him days later.

Former North Sydney Girls IT worker Michael Mowbray has pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse material. Picture: Supplied
Former North Sydney Girls IT worker Michael Mowbray is in prison for possessing child abuse material. Picture: Supplied
Former North Sydney Girls IT worker Michael Mowbray has pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse material. Picture: Supplied
He wrote a letter of apology to the court. Picture: Supplied

He pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child abuse material.

Dressed in a blue suit, Mowbray faced Manly Local Court on Wednesday where Magistrate Robyn Denes sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment, with a non parole period of nine months.

“HARD DONE BY”

In a letter to the court ahead of his sentencing, Mowbray detailed his horror at his crimes, saying they are his “deepest regrets” and will “never be abolished” from his memory.

“I have only ever wanted to help the underdog to assist those in need,” Mowbray wrote.

“I will spend the rest of my life proving to the court and all those in my life that I am better than this.”

The former IT worker said he was “completely, innately ashamed” that he was a part of the “world of child abuse material”.

He wrote that he was “blessed” with friends, his partner and mother who stood by him despite the charges.

While he didn’t believe anyone would continue to speak to him, he said they supported him in “liberating” ways.

“Checking in constantly (bordering incessantly), lifting my spirits despite job loss due to news articles, being a shoulder to cry on when inevitably I felt hard done by – and not judging me when I came to terms with the concept of accessing and possessing said material despite my lack of awareness,” the letter read.

COURT- IT WORKER
Mowbray claimed he had felt “hard done by” and that his “name was tainted”. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip

The former IT worker wrote about how his partner is “caring, patient and understanding”, and he couldn’t believe she wanted to continue the relationship when he was charged.

“Even after the news articles and over 12 months of court proceedings,” Mowbray wrote in the letter.

“When the first article was released my ex-employment (at the time was the job of my dreams) was put on indefinite unpaid leave from that workplace.”

He said he never thought he would be the “kind of person” who committed crimes, and wrote about how it has helped him understand how to deal with “emotions and responses to stress”.

Mowbray wrote that his name was “tainted” after NCA NewsWire first reported the charges last year.

“As such it has reduced my job prospects, I have lost five jobs during this period,” he wrote.

“This experience has obviously been a huge toll on me, anxiety through the roof, however in turn has actually made me a better person.”

TEEN JAILBAIT

The court was told on Wednesday Mowbray had used the search term “teen jailbait” to find the material.

After searching for the images on the dark web using the TOR browser, the court was told he then uploaded three images to his OneDrive account, which he accessed on his work computer at the school.

SYDNEY SCHOOL
He worked at North Sydney Girls High School when he was charged. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe

The remainder of the 198 images and 103 videos were located on his bedroom computer and on a four terabyte encrypted hard drive.

The court was told Mowbray named one of the files “extreme teenie video collection” and another folder “shy British amateur teens home alone f**k yay”.

Magistrate Denes said the nature of the material was concerning as it depicted girls as young as 10 who are “not easily mistaken for adults”.

Mowbray was caught while he was working as an IT support specialist for the prestigious school, working out of a “help desk office” in the library.

The court was told he had a password protected computer at the school which was accessed by a new administrator on November 22, 2022 who found the folder on the computer in Mowbray’s personal OneDrive account.

The principal was notified and contacted police immediately.

A search warrant was conducted at his home two days later, where the remainder of the material was found.

Mowbray’s employment at the school ended shortly before his arrest, with a source saying staff were asked to hand in their school-issued laptops to the IT department in the following days.

At the time, a Department of Education spokesman told NCA NewsWire the safety and wellbeing of students and staff was its top priority.

COURT- IT WORKER
His employment ended shortly after his arrest. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip

“CALLOUS AND PREDATORY”

Magistrate Robyn Denes said the material depicted “very clearly vulnerable children”.

She said it was clear Mowbray knew what he was doing because he was accessing the dark web, which she said is an “indication” it is something which “will not be readily accepted in the community”.

“He clearly wanted a particular type of image,” the magistrate said.

“I accept it wasn’t entirely sophisticated … some was on OneDrive … the majority of the material was encrypted, there is a level of sophistication.

“Possessing child pornography is a callous and predatory crime.”

The magistrate also noted the offence is not victimless as it creates a market for the continued exploitation and abuse of children.

Ms Denes said once the images are online they are “there forever”.

“These children can never escape these images … imagine going through life knowing … your children may come across these images of you as a child,” she told the court.

“It’s horrendous … it’s not victimless.”

PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT

Mowbray’s defence lawyer George Costantine told the court his client had sought psychological treatment shortly after his arrest, and had since had 17 sessions.

COURT- MOWBRAY
Mowbray’s (right) crimes were described as “callous and predatory”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

His next session was supposed to be on Friday.

Mr Costantine argued his client was better kept in the community so he could continue his treatment.

“This isn’t a typical matter where you get someone who has had two to three consultations and then commenced treatment,” he argued.

“This is someone that after arrest and being placed on bail, is on treatment and is on that until sentencing.”

NO ALTERNATIVE TO PRISON

Mowbray sat in the public gallery holding a book and some chewing gum as the magistrate told the court his crimes were so serious there was no alternative to a prison sentence.

He did not react as Ms Denes sentenced him to 18 months behind bars for the protection of the community and children.

She gave him a non-parole period of nine months, meaning he will be eligible for parole on November 20.

Mowbray was walked from the court by Sheriffs officers and taken into the cells.

The magistrate also ordered the devices with the material be destroyed.

COURT- IT WORKER
He is going to appeal the severity of the sentence. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip

APPEAL

Mr Costantine quickly lodged an appeal and applied for bail in front of a different magistrate on Wednesday afternoon.

The lawyer told Magistrate Robert Williams he was confident his client would see “possible” success in the appeal.

“I say any District Court judge may come to a different view with respect to the sentence exercise in relation to his prospects of rehabilitation and offending,” he argued.

He told the court his client had a supportive partner in the community, and a job.

“Your honour would find he could comply with bail and bail could be granted,” Mr Costantine said.

After assessing all the information, Mr Williams found there was no other alternative to a full-time custodial sentence.

He rejected the bail application.

The appeal will be heard in the District Court in April.