A 26-year-old man from Sydney’s north shore is the latest person to be charged after a nation-wide investigation into a major online paedophile network.
Seventeen men have now been charged with child sex offences as part of the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Arkstone, which launched in 2020.
Eleven of the 17 men are from NSW.
A man was arrested at his home in Lane Cove on Thursday and is facing child abuse material offences, a bestiality offence and one count of wilful and obscene exposure in a public place.
The animal linked to the bestiality charge has been removed from harm.
Police also seized a mobile phone from the man’s house that allegedly contained child abuse material.
AFP investigators made the operation’s first arrest in 2020, following a tip-off from the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
The first man arrested was 30-year-old Wyong man Justin Radford who will be sentenced in Gosford Local Court next week.
Mr Radford was charged with 89 offences, including sexual touching of a victim under 10, and producing and disseminating child abuse material.
A spokeswoman for the AFP said it was only after his phone was examined during a search of his home in February 2020 that the extent of the online network was discovered.
The network involves numerous alleged child sex offenders producing and sharing child abuse material on social media forums.
“Investigators followed the digital trail from seized electronic materials during the search warrant at his home, to uncover other alleged offenders across Australia, with further arrests,” the spokeswoman said.
The AFP said evidence from each arrest had led to more alleged offenders being identified, including childcare workers.
In June 2020, 27-year-old Timothy Doyle and his 22-year-old partner Steven Garrad were arrested in the Mid-North Coast town of Kendall and charged with hundreds of offences.
Mr Doyle has been charged with 303 offences relating to the abuse of 30 children, with allegations including sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and the production of child abuse material.
The 26-year-old arrested on Thursday had his bail refused and was due to appear before Hornsby Local Court on Friday.
He is facing a maximum of 15 years in jail if proved to be guilty.
The AFP said as of late 2020, 828 charges have been laid and 46 child victims have been identified as part of their investigation.
AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said the horrific acts committed in the child abuse material shared among this network of alleged child sex offenders was something no child should ever be subjected to.
“Our investigators have been combing through every image, video and communication since Operation Arkstone began, to find and bring to justice those who carelessly abuse and forever traumatise our children,” Detective Superintendent McQuillan said.
“We are continuing to examine the evidence seized throughout the investigation and have not ruled out the possibility of further arrests.”