Court documents have revealed the Western Australian father at the centre of an international surrogacy controversy has been convicted of more than 20 child sex offences.
Fifty-six-year-old David John Farnell and his wife have been accused by a Thai surrogate mother of abandoning their baby son Gammy, who has Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition.
The couple brought Gammy’s healthy twin sister home from Thailand.
It has now been revealed Mr Farnell has 22 child sex convictions, including unlawful and indecent dealing with girls when he was in his twenties.
Western Australia’s Department for Child Protection has launched an investigation into the safety of Gammy’s twin sister.
Departmental staff have visited the couple’s house in Bunbury, but have so far received no response.
On Wednesday afternoon, the RSPCA took the family dog into care, after a complaint that it had been barking at the property for the last two days.
Mr Farnell was sentenced to three years’ jail in 1997 for sexually molesting two girls, who were aged seven and 10 at the time of the offences, in 1982 and 1983.
Court documents reveal he molested the children when they were visiting him at his home. The victims made complaints when they were adults, and Mr Farnell pleaded guilty to 18 charges.
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In sentencing, Justice Michael O’Sullivan said the victims had been “robbed of their childhood” and suffered emotional problems as a result.
He noted that Mr Farnell had no previous criminal record and was a “hardworking and constructive member of the community”.
“You have a stable family life which is an irony, really, in the particular circumstances of this case, given that you appear to have robbed the complainants of an opportunity to have such a life,” he said.
Just months later, while still imprisoned, Mr Farnell was again charged – this time with indecent dealings with a child under the age of 13.
A jury found him guilty on four counts. The offences occurred over a 10-month period in the mid-1990s. Mr Farnell received an 18-month jail term.
Mr Farnell and his wife have said they did not know of the existence of Gammy and were only told about the baby girl.
But Pattaramon Chanbua, the woman who carried the twins, said the Australian couple definitely knew about both babies.
When first told of Mr Farnell’s child sex convictions on Tuesday, Ms Chanbua said she was shocked by the news.
“I was startled and worried,” she said. “Right now I am still worried.”
The case has sparked a review of surrogacy laws in Thailand, and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says she is in contact with authorities in Thailand about the issue.