AUS Federal Police investigate pornography ring targeting Australian schoolgirls

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Australian Federal Police and detectives in several states are investigating a website that contains sexual images of girls from private and public schools across Australia.

Key points:

  • Website in the form of a “message chat forum” had photos and requests of naked schoolgirls
  • At least 70 Australian schools mentioned in requests, police say
  • Police and education departments around the country investigating

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Marcus Boorman said a number of the “images allegedly depict non-consenting or underage girls”.

The page reportedly features naked photos of teenage girls, some with their names, so others can rate them.

Police earlier said a minimum of 70 schools had been targeted from around Australia.

New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and ACT police are investigating as are a number of education departments.

However, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) issued a statement this afternoon saying it had so far found no evidence of child exploitation.

“We believe the site is hosted overseas and does not appear to contain any child exploitation material,” Detective Superintendent Cheryl Scanlon said.

QPS said the site contained images and information that had been obtained from social media sites and from across the internet.

The AFP’s Acting Superintendent Boorman said they were in the early stages of an investigation.

Earlier today, Townsville-based Detective Senior Sergeant David Miles said the website was a chat forum targeting schoolgirls and at least 18 Queensland schools had been targeted.

“The website appears to be in the format of a message chat forum where you can upload and request photos from various schools or various locations around Australia,” he said.

“From our understanding we have a number of images that have been posted from at this stage, a minimum of 70 schools that have been identified around Australia where we have people requesting specific photos to be uploaded.”

Education departments investigating ‘highly offensive website’

The Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmanian education departments said they were aware of the website and were working with police.

“This website is highly offensive. We will work with other agencies — including police — as a matter of urgency to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students,” the Queensland Department of Education said in a statement.

Detective Senior Sergeant Miles said officers were working through the images as part of a national investigation into the website.

“First and foremost, if we identify any children, we’ll have to approach the individuals and ascertain the circumstances in which the imagery might have been obtained,” he said.

“We then go into a situation where we explore how the image is disseminated, how it was put on the web. Then we look at people committing offences.”

Schools address ‘disturbing, predatory, misogynistic’ content

Brisbane’s Southern Cross Catholic College held a meeting with all staff and students this morning.

Principal Brett Horton discussed the website and the language “which is disturbing and depicts predatory, misogynistic and violent content”.

“I explained some of the real-life consequences of sharing these images which range from humiliation and distress through to legal implications including criminal charges,” he said in a statement.

Brisbane’s All Hallows School principal Catherine O’Kane has written to parents acknowledging the school was named as one of those targeted.

“Today and during the remainder of this week, we will meet with our students in Years 7 to 12 to discuss the ongoing challenge that pornography presents for our young women,” she said.

Tasmanian Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff told State Parliament two state schools had been caught up in the pornography ring and his department was working with authorities.

ACT police confirmed they were conducting investigations into complaints linked to five schools in the territory, and had referred allegations to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

The principal of St Mary Mackillop College in Canberra, Michael Lee, described the website as “invasive and degrading”.

“This report points to something far more concerning than an error of judgment and it’s degrading, humiliating, and contemptuous disregard for images of other people will not be marginalised or overlooked,” he said in a statement.

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