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3 February 2022
Brisbane, AUSTRALIA—Two Queensland men were jailed this week for crimes relating to the sexual abuse of Filipino children, both online from Australia and in the Visayas region of the Philippines.
On Monday, John Joseph Power, 57, was sentenced by the Brisbane Supreme Court to eight years’ imprisonment for sexually exploiting Filipino children in the Philippines and online via social media. The following day, Russell Lorback, 76, was sentenced in Cairns to six years’ imprisonment for similar offences.
“The online sexual exploitation of children – including the livestreaming of their abuse – is the newest and fastest growing form of slavery. More needs to be done to tackle this crime. Law enforcement are doing an excellent job, but it’s simply too easy for Australian men and Filipino traffickers to use the internet to prey on young children.”Steve Baird, CEO of International Justice Mission Australia
Power was charged in September 2019 by the Australian Border Force, after they found child abuse material on his phone when he returned from travel to the Philippines.
Through subsequent referrals to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and then on to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC), IJM was able to assist local authorities in rescuing five children in Cebu on 10 December 2019. The victims were four girls (aged 10, 14, 14 and 16 at the time) and one 17-year-old boy, all of whom were brought into the care of social services.
In March 2021, Power pleaded guilty to 17 offences, many of which relate to creating, possessing and using social media to transmit child abuse material.
Russell Lorback from Innisfail was arrested on 27 April 2019 following AFP investigations. Officers discovered more than 500,000 individual files of child abuse material on devices at his home. Further investigation revealed he had transferred over A$160,000 in total to people in the Philippines as payment for facilitating the sexual abuse of Filipino children.
After the AFP referred the case to the PICACC, IJM was able to work with Philippine authorities to rescue five children in their teens in the Visayas region. A further four children – aged 10 months, 11 months and two aged two years – were considered at-risk and also taken into care.
At the time of the rescues, Philippine authorities arrested four sisters and a man in relation to the trafficking of the children. Although court logistics were complicated by the introduction of COVID-19 lockdowns in the Philippines, both prosecution and defence worked together to progress the case. The four women were convicted a year later in plea bargains. Plea bargains provide swifter and friendlier justice for survivors without the need for them to be subjected to court proceedings like cross-examination, which can serve to retraumatise them.
Lorback was convicted in early December 2021.
Read about the 2019 rescue and arrest operation.
Although there is no suggestion that the Power and Lorback cases are linked, the two sentences demonstrate the dark reality that Australian men are using the internet to sexual abuse children in the Philippines.
Since 2011, IJM has rescued 898 victims of online sexual exploitation and assisted with the conviction of 138 traffickers in the Philippines. Alongside the AFP and Philippine authorities, IJM is a founding member of the PICACC, of which the UK’s National Crime Agency and Dutch National Police Force also form a part. The PICACC represents a collaborative effort to combat the borderless crime that is the online sexual exploitation of children.
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