Sentencing Spotlight on child exploitation material offences in Queensland

Media release

8 May 2017

Adults who are guilty of child exploitation material (CEM) offences in Queensland are highly likely to receive a custodial penalty.

In the last decade, the majority (78.1%) of offenders who went to court received a custodial penalty of some sort. Female CEM offenders (58.3%) were less likely to receive a custodial order compared to males (78.5%).

These are the findings of a Sentencing Spotlight on child exploitation material offences, published by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council. The Sentencing Spotlight series collates and publishes data on sentencing outcomes finalised in Queensland.

QSAC member Helen Watkins said: “These offences include the access, possession, distribution and making of child exploitation material, and cover all related offences under both Queensland and Commonwealth law. This is the first time data of this type has been collated, focussing on the penalties and sentences associated with different types of CEM offences, summarising offender characteristics and sentencing trends.”

The criminal justice system has dealt with 3035 offenders in relation to CEM offences over the last decade—between them they were responsible for 8198 CEM-related offences.

Of these, 1470 young offenders were dealt with by Queensland Police Service via caution or conference and 1565 offenders were sentenced in Queensland courts (including 28 young offenders).

The Sentencing Spotlight looks at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2006 and 30 June 2016. Offenders dealt with in court were mostly charged with possession of CEM (49.5%), followed by offences under Commonwealth legislation such as accessing such material through a carriage service (i.e. the internet) or the postal service (34.3%).

The Sentencing Spotlight also shows that 354 offenders (22.6%) were sentenced for CEM offences in conjunction with other, more serious offending, the majority of which was child sex offending. Young offenders were predominately diverted by police for sexting-based offences.

“Young people don’t realise that sexting is actually a CEM offence,” said Ms Watkins. “We have been advised by Queensland Police Service that late last year a new policy direction for sexting was formalised by police, who now take an educative approach for some of these offences.”

Almost all defendants sentenced in court for CEM offences pleaded guilty (97.5%). Of all young people diverted by QPS, the vast majority were dealt with via a formal caution (92.9%), with only 7.1 per cent attending a youth justice conference.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on…child exploitation material offences (PDF 1MB)