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County Court Judge Jane Campton sentenced an unidentified ex-police officer to more than four years in prison for abusing his own granddaughter and sharing the pictures on darknet forums. The man, a former Victorian policeman, actively used darknet child abuse forums since the inception of publicly accessible onion services. He had also—while working as a law enforcement officer in Australia—communicated with several members of The Love Zone while Australia’s Task Force Argos had been investigating the very same members.
In communicating with some of the world’s most notorious pedophiles on The Love Zone—a massive child abuse forum that Australian police had slowly and stealthily infiltrated—the police officer was likely talking to undercover Task Force Argos agents. Task Force Argos, for those unaware, is a special branch of Australian law enforcement that operates via controversial investigative tactics. For instance, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation took control of the child abuse forum “Playpen” and allowed it to exist for more than a week. The blowback is ongoing.
Task Force Argos, though, operated the child abuse forum “Childs Play” for nearly one year. Argos agents successfully identified both pedophiles and children by analysing writing styles, visual artifacts in pictures, and other pieces of information that forum users likely ignored. Although the information revealed in the courtroom did not detail the events that led to the grandfather’s arrest, several pieces of information indicated that the pictures played a significant role in the case.
German authorities have often caught offenders through the pictures and videos uploaded by the offender himself (or, in some cases, herself). German police have also worked with Australian authorities on numerous cases. The pictures of the girl could have led directly to the grandfather’s arrest through a number of avenues. In a recent case in Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office sent a picture of a girl to techies at school around the country for the girl’s suspected age and grade.
Teachers recognized the girl and sent information to the police. The police then investigated the girl’s parents and identified one of her relatives as the abuser. Given that this tactic has frequently been used by authorities in a number of child abuse cases, there is a good chance Australian authorities used it when investigating the grandfather.
In May 2016, Victoria Police officers raided the grandfather’s home. That seized a laptop, external hard drives, and a cell phone. The devices contained 26 pictures depicting child abuse. His computer contained evidence that the man had encouraged other members of darknet abuse forums to sexually assault or rape children as young as eight years old. He told other members that he had wanted to impregnate his granddaughter.
“It is an aggravating feature of your offending that you used your own granddaughter to produce child pornography,” the sentencing judge told the grandfather. “In performing this despicable act, you took advantage of a vulnerable young child, and betrayed the trust she would have placed in you as a grandfather.”
The man will spend four years and six months in prison for the Commonwealth crimes. The State crimes led to a shorter sentence of only 30 months incarceration.