Unprecedented child abuse ring busted

Tiffanie Turnbull
·3-min read

A NSW childcare worker and soccer coach are among 14 men police say filmed and shared the sexual abuse of 46 Australian babies and children in a massive, global online child exploitation network.

Men from NSW, Queensland and Western Australia are accused of preying on children between the ages of 16 months and 15 to produce and upload child abuse material to a range of online platforms.

The men range in age from 20 to 48 and include a childcare worker, volunteer soccer coach and disability support worker.

"No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the people they trust, whether that is a family member, a childcare worker, or a soccer coach," Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough told reporters on Wednesday.

"Heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the victims of Operation Arkstone."

Police say the former childcare worker used his job and "other deceptive means" in his personal life to gain access to 30 children.

Sixteen of the children were from one childcare centre on the NSW mid-north coast near Port Macquarie.

The man then shared them with his 22-year-old partner, who also abused them.

The 27-year-old man has been charged with more than 300 offences, including having sexual intercourse with a child under 10, indecent assault of a child under 16 and intentionally sexually touching a child under 10.

His partner faces 124 charges.

Both men will appear in Port Macquarie Local Court on November 19.

The volunteer soccer coach was also able to gain access to seven children and will face Central Local Court on February 23 on 44 charges.

"One of the key allegations for all three of these offenders is (they were) offending in a position of authority," NSW Police State Crime Commander Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.

Police made their first arrest in February after tip-offs from American social media companies were passed on by US authorities.

Material seized from the 30-year-old Wyong man's home sparked an eight month investigation culminating in the most recent arrest on Friday.

Police say each arrest and search warrant led to the discovery of more offenders and more children needing to be saved from ongoing abuse.

Investigators have laid 828 charges and have not ruled out further arrests.

Eight NSW men have been charged with 577 offences against 39 children.

Police also laid 30 charges against three men in Queensland with one child victim identified, and 221 charges laid against three men with six child victims identified in Western Australia.

Bestiality charges relating to four animals were also laid against men in NSW.

More than 140 matters were referred back to Europe, Asia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand during the investigation, as well as 18 to the United States, which led to three arrests.

AFP Acting Commander Child Protection Operations Christopher Woods said the scale of offending was unprecedented.

"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," he said in a statement.