A 31-year-old Sydney man had been charged with 196 sexual abuse charges or minors and filming it to post online. According to the Australian Federal Police, the man from St. Clair in the west of Sydney will appear on Thursday at Sydney Central Local Court.
196 Child Abuse Charges
Grant Harden, from St. Clair, was first indicted in May last year. He was charged with 44 child sexual abuse offenses and multiple counts of sexual intercourse with a child under aged 10. Harden faced a further 152 charges at Sydney Central Local Court for allegedly sexually abusing young kids and filming the abuse for online dissemination. He was also charged for bestiality offenses.
Harden was initially taken into custody under Operation Arkstone, a large-scale probing into a global online network of alleged child sex offenders. Operation Arkstone started in February 2020 after a report to the AFP-led Australian Center to Counter Child Exploitation from the United States National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding a netizen allegedly disseminating and receiving child abuse material via the internet, reported The Epoch Times.
So far, Operation Arkstone has arrested 20 men. They are facing 1026 charges associated with child sexual abuse and, in some cases, bestiality offenses. The operation has rescued 53 children from further danger in Australia. However, according to AFP Commander Hilda Sirec, there were more pedophiles out there, reported Herald Sun.
AFP investigators discovered the network of alleged offenders through assessing a phone seized from an NSW Central Coast man amid his arrest for abuse charges. A 31-year-old man on Wednesday became the 20th person arrested as part of Arkstone when federal police searched his home at Willoughby in the north of Sydney.
He was indicted with one count of controlling or possessing child abuse material acquired or accessed through the internet. He was reportedly using a carriage service, contrary to the Criminal Code's section 474.22A. He will appear in Downing Center Court on April 15.
According to Sirec, "As a society we still find it too confrontational to talk about child sexual abuse and exploitation, so we must have more conversations with the community and inform them that this crime is more pervasive and widespread than realized." She added during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of child exploitation has aggravated.
The probing has now charged 14 men in NSW, with three in Western Australia and three in Queensland. The group is arraigned of 1026 charges associated with child sexual abuse and bestiality, reported Yahoo News.
Since Operation Arkstone commenced, there have been 53 children removed from further jeopardy in Australia. According to the AFP, it has also made 146 referrals to law enforcement agencies across the globe.
Sirec also stated, their officers are continuing to identify alleged offenders through Operation Arkstone. Like today's additional charges, they will affirm that all offenses are accounted for, whether that person has three or 188 charges set forth against them. "No offense is too small when dealing with child sexual abuse."
Investigators have been coordinating intelligence and collaborating with counterparts in Asia, Europe, the US, New Zealand, and Canada. This is in order to identify offenders and kids who need to be rescued.