AUSTRALIA’S child pornography laws have been shown to be lenient, with US members of an internet pedophile ring jailed for life while its Townsville-based co-founder launches an appeal against his non-parole sentence of 32 months.
Former Australia Post human resources regional manager Derek Richard Mara, 30, will next month fight to have his commonwealth jail term cut after he was convicted as one of the four founding members of the internet’s oldest known pedophile ring, The Group, which financed made-to-order abuse movies and picture shoots of children, some just a few months old.
Mara – who carried the moniker of “Tech” – provided computer expertise to encrypt and hide hundreds of thousands of files of the material sold and shared around the world.
An investigation led by Queensland’s Taskforce Argos and involving Interpol and the FBI infiltrated the ring in 2006, and last year arrested 22 core members and identified another 2500 customers of child-sex websites in 20 countries. More than 40 children identified in the images were rescued from abuse during the investigation.
In recent months, The Australian has found that most of the 12 Americans convicted for their involvement in The Group have been sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for offences similar to those that Mara pleaded guilty to last year.
Five Americans were given life, and another was sentenced to 70 years after he was also convicted of abusing a child and recording it on film. Other members of The Group, convicted in Europe, have received sentences of up to life in prison.
Mara – who was also charged with indecent treatment of a child – was sentenced to six years in jail, with a non-parole period of 32 months after pleading guilty to three counts of sending and receiving pedophile images.
It is believed to be the longest sentence given under commonwealth law for the offence, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years for producing, possessing or supplying child pornography.
Child welfare expert Chris Goddard, who heads Monash University’s Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia, said the states and commonwealth were lenient on those who traded in pedophile material.
“Child abuse sentencing in Australia is soft in comparison with the rest of the world,” Professor Goddard said.
“One of the problems is the language – we call it child pornography, which gives a sense of consent. But these offenders are hiring people to grossly exploit and commit criminal acts against children.
“We need to review the inadequate sentencing provisions.”
One other Australian, former Victorian schoolteacher Ian Wayne Tucker, 51, who was convicted as a member of The Group, was sentenced to 15months in jail.
He had more than 16,000 sexually explicit pictures and pornographic videos of young children on his computer when it was seized by police.
* Stepan Bondarenko aka “Bumhead” 38, of Philadelphia, Pa. – 20 years
* Erik Wayerski, 46, “Lerch” of Round Rock, Texas – 30 years
* Raymond Roy, 54, “Nimo” of San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – 30 years
* Ruble Keys, 55, “Crazy Horse” of Medford, Ore. – 17 years
* John Mosman, 46, “Pickleman” of Waterbury, Conn. – 13 years
* Warren Weber, 56, “Muad’Dib” of Boise, Idaho – 15 years
* Michael Berger, 33,”Box of Rocks” of Mechanicsville, Va. – 15 years
* Daniel Castleman aka “Chingachgook” 43, of Lubbock, Texas – LIFE
* Gary Lakey, 54, “Eggplant” of Anderson, Ind – LIFE
* Marvin Lambert, 33, “Methuselah” of Indianapolis, Ind. – LIFE
* Neville McGarity, 40, “Wraith” of Medina, Texas – LIFE
* Ronald White, 59, “RoadKill” of Burlington, N.C – LIFE
* James Freeman, 47, “Mystikal” of Santa Rosa Beach – LIFE
“My thanks to you and all the others that together make this the greatest group of pedos to ever gather in one place,” Jim Freeman wrote