Transcript: Sentencing Seminar Series - Let's talk about sexts

Kathy McLeish:

Welcome all to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s Sentencing Seminar Series. Before we start, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting tonight and pay my respect to Elders past, present and emerging and welcome any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here tonight. Thank you for attending this event.  It's important to recognise the land has always been, and always will be under their custodianship.

This seminar series gives the Council a chance to bring together experts who can talk about specific sentencing-related issues to all Queenslanders. My name is Kathy McLeish and I'm a journalist with the ABC.  With me tonight are some of my Council and Secretariat colleagues.  I'll get you to put up your hands and thank you for all your hard work. It's a fantastic series, and a great opportunity for these issues and subjects to be discussed and considered further.

This evening, I'm your MC on this important topic of sexting.  I'm also joined here tonight by a group of respected, and influential experts, who we'll hear from soon.  I'll introduce you to them shortly.  Before we start our seminar, I do need to run through a bit of housekeeping.  You've probably all pinpointed the location of the toilets.  If you haven't, both the men and women's restrooms are located back out through the doors, and to the left.  Smoking is not permitted in any part of this venue.  If you do need to light up, you'll have to head downstairs, and head outside.  In the unlikely event of an emergency, please leave by the nearest safe exit, and follow the directions of the fire warden, also, to safety outside.

As a courtesy to everyone here tonight, please ensure your phone is off, or switched to silent.  If you do need to step out at any time during the seminar, I ask that you to do so just quietly.  We have a large group of people joining us via live web stream tonight, and the seminar is also being recorded for future use.

As we all know, times have changed.  When I was young, and you got together with a young boy, or had a crush on them, you'd exchange phone numbers, ring them at their house all the time hoping that their mother wouldn't be the one to answer the phone, and maybe meet up with them at the shopping centre, or the local cinema. There might be a bit of heavy breathing, a bit of pashing; maybe a little bit more, but it might be over in a few weeks, and it would all be forgotten, and you'd move on with your life.

Young people are still learning the business of relating to one another. Relationships can be short, sharp, and stormy, even relationships between friends.  Emotional self-control is not always at its best at 15.  The pattern of early relationship-building hasn't necessarily changed for young people of today, of course, except for the advent of the digital superhighway, and the smartphone.

Those of us here, including myself, who grew up in the '70s and '80s have probably never thought about the complexities of being a teenager in the era of social media.  In 2018, something you say in the heat of the moment, or blurt out on Facebook can be there for months or years.  It's out there for your online friends to view, and stew over, again and again.

If, however, you have children yourself, you've probably been navigating these issues for years.  Engagement in social media, and in the online world doesn't just begin when a child turns 13. They've been online, albeit in a supervised way, for years.  Those of us who are parents to teenage children have been negotiating the terms of screen time since they were very small, but during the years when they begin to want to negotiate with their peers on their own terms, they no longer want you around for that one.

Tonight, we're here to talk about sexting.  Firstly, let's define what we mean by the term.  Sexting actually has no legal definition, but when we attach a common meaning, we're typically talking about when a nude selfie is taken, and sent to another person.  Why is this a sentencing matter, I hear you ask?  If the subject of the nude selfie is a young person aged under 18 years old, anyone who possesses or distributes that image, even those who are under 18, themselves, has actually committed a criminal offence, the offence of possession, or distribution of child-exploitation material.

Anyone found guilty can be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 14 or 20 years, if an anonymising service, or network is used.  Of course, while the maximum penalty is reserved for the most serious case of the offence, and a young person caught distributing, or possessing an image would be extremely unlikely to attract any kind of custodial penalty for a single instance, it, nevertheless, will bring them to the attention of police.

I want to start by giving you the perspective of one young man who came to the attention of police for just that, for possessing child-exploitation material. We've invited George, that's not his real name, of course, to speak with us about his own personal experience of being caught up in something he didn't ask for and didn't mean.

For those of you here who are worried about how George came to be here today, both he and his parents agreed that his story might assist in raising awareness about what can unintentionally happen to young people, and to encourage an important discussion about what we can do to address these situations. Let's hear from George.

Interviewer:

Can you just start off saying what actually happened to you?

George:

My friend was with a girl, and they had obviously, I don’t know, exchanged photos or videos and then, out of the blue, he obviously sent me some sort of screen recording, or something of her, and I didn't know what it was.  I didn't ask him to send it to me.  I opened it, and that was that; that was the end of it. I left it at that.  A few days later, the girl, who I was also close with at the time, informs me that he had been showing it around.  I sent it to her, and I said, "Is this the one? Is this it?" She said “yeah”, and I sort of tried to comfort her, and I said, "Oh, I'm really sorry about that."  I thought that was it, really.  Quite a few months later, my mum got a phone call.  They said that I needed to come up to the police station.

Interviewer:

Did they tell your mum and you why you had to come to the police station?

George:

For distributing child exploitation.

Interviewer:

When your friend originally sent you that message, and you opened it, and then you closed it, did you look at it again?  Did you go through, and have a look at it a couple of times, or did you send it to anyone else, or just back to the person who was actually in the video?

George:

No, no, I never...  I opened it up, and I completely forgot about it, until she told me that it was being spread around.  Then, I sent it to her, and her alone, just purely...  Not to take the...  As a joke or anything, I sent it to her and I was quite serious.  I was like, "Is this the one you're talking about?"

Interviewer:

Did you, at any point, know what that meant by having that on your phone, or having that - or sending it back to her?

George:

No, I was really quite unaware.  I sort of didn't understand.  I sort of knew that those sorts of photos were bad, in a sense that it's almost bad for your reputation, and really bad for yourself, but I didn't actually know that what I was doing, by sending it to her, and asking her if it’s her, was actually against the law.  I didn't realise.  I thought I was actually doing her a favour, but I was doing more harm than good.  I didn't really think that telling anyone would really help.  I guess it's a bit embarrassing to tell your parents, or anyone about that kind of stuff, as well.

Interviewer:

Then you went to see the police, how was that process?  Who went in with you, and what happened?

George:

My mum went in there with me, and the police just asked me questions regarding the issue.  They were really nice, and really comforting, but there's only so much one can do.  Obviously, I still felt really nervous, really scared, really uneasy; didn't know what to expect.  But, yeah, they did the best they could.

Interviewer:

When you found out that it was...  All of this police interview was because of what happened, that your friend had sent it to you, and you said that you didn't ask him to.  How did that make you feel, when you found out that you were at the police station for that?

George:

At the time, obviously, I was just more overwhelmed than anything else; sort of scared, and uneasy.  Later, I was really just kind of really annoyed that I was in trouble for something that I really didn't intend at all.  I was kind of annoyed that I was in trouble for something, really, that I'm not really that involved with.

Interviewer:

What would you have done differently when that boy sent you that?

George:

As embarrassing as it would have been, I probably would have told someone. Hard as it would've been, I guess it would have been the right thing to do, and then he would have hopefully gotten in trouble before it would have been distributed further.

Interviewer:

What about parents?  What do you think parents need to do to help their kids better?

George:

I would say just making sure that they're open to their kids.  Open to...  rather than if your kid tells you something about something bad that's happened on the internet, instead of going, "Oh, why'd you do that," or, "What's all this about then?" First of all, listening, and then understanding, and just being, just being there to listen, and then knowing what to do; what's the next step after that.

Kathy McLeish:

To help us think about the issue, I'd like to introduce our panel of experts. Helen Watkins, of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, is a criminologist, and psychologist dedicated to excellence in forensic, and clinical assessment and treatment.  She was a member of the Parole Board of Queensland, and a member of the former Queensland Regional Parole Boards and the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Steinhardt of the Queensland Police, is a 33-year veteran of the police service.  He's headed a national project responsible for developing innovative technology to enable analysis of child-exploitation images and support multi-jurisdictional victim-identification efforts.  He's been a specialist adviser in child protection to the National Strategy on Child Exploitation Matters, and most recently, has been seconded to the Crime and Corruption Commission, where he led a team of specialist investigators responsible for the identification, tactical targeting, and interdiction of online predators.

Rob Priddey is a former Queensland detective, and online covert police officer. He's with the Department of Education's Cybersafety and has been the manager of the Department's Cybersafety and Reputation Management team for over seven years.  In this role, he provides support and expert advice to school leaders, regional directors, and teachers, regarding online safety, and reputation-management issues affecting school communities.  In the last five years, Rob and his team have delivered over 1,000 face-to-face presentations to more than 145,000 students, promoting the importance of safe and responsible online behaviours, and a positive digital footprint.

Professor Mark Kebbell, of the Griffith Criminology Institute, is a member of the School of Applied Psychology, and chief investigator with the Australian Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security.  He's a chartered forensic psychologist, and a registered psychologist, and his research expertise is in the area of investigative psychology, with regards to investigation, and prosecution of serious crime, in particular.  His previous work has included a review of factors associated with sex offending.

Can I turn to you first, Helen Watkins, as a member of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, can you provide some background on this issue, and why the Council decided to host the event tonight?

Helen Watkins:

Thanks, Kathy.  In 2015, the then Queensland Organised Crime Commission of Inquiry handed down a number of recommendations.  Amongst those recommendations was one which related to a review of the complexity of what was referred to as the Oliver Scale.  The Oliver Scale has been adopted from the English and Wales Court of Appeals System, where quite a number of years prior, there was a range of, originally, I think it was about five factors, and then, it's up to nine on the scale now, which is meant to classify images, according to the level of depravity. That's then linked to sentencing.

There are a range of issues associated with it, which are very time-consuming for the officers involved in reviewing each of the images, because many of the images are repeat images that have been seen, time and time again. There are better classification systems. For example, one that Interpol uses that classifies according to a four-scale system.  It also relies upon a bank of images, where computer programmes can automatically identify that those images have previously been classified.

The time that it takes officers to look at individual images, and sometimes, there can be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of images...  That time is taking away from their capacity to identify current victims, and to then rescue those child victims.  That was seen as a particularly important focus of both that original Commission, and then the subsequent government.

When the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council was reformed in 2016, that was the very first Terms of Reference that we were handed was to actually have a look at the Terms of Reference which included the Oliver Scale, but also broader issues about child-exploitation material.  One of the things that we discovered in our findings was that with the 10-year period that we looked at for offenders who went through the courts, or had been charged, or investigated for these types of offences, there were just over 3,000 different offenders, and 48% of those were actually juveniles.

That's where we identified, in fact, that they were people that weren't necessarily to be dealt with in the criminal justice system, because, like our subject here, George, they had become inadvertent participants in image-based abuse.  Therefore, whilst that fell outside of the scope of our child-exploitation-material Terms of Reference that we delivered our recommendations on last year, we did think that this was a really significant finding, that 48% fell into that category, and therefore, that's what's brought us here tonight, to follow up on this really critical issue.

Kathy McLeish:

There are few things that, basically, this tidal wave of digital technology has thrown up, in what you've said there.  One of them is just the size of the policing task of classifying and going through these documents.  Also, that it's swept up a wider range of people in the net, really, in the number of people that potentially could be offending, and that police need to deal with.

Helen Watkins:

That's right.  Wayne is in a better position to be able to take over at this point, but one of the things that we did find in our research for the child-exploitation material Terms of Reference was that Queensland Police Service had identified a range of procedural changes that they could undertake, which meant, then, the children weren’t automatically going to be channelled through the criminal justice system, where there was sufficient evidence that they didn't represent a risk to other people.  Wayne, you might have something further that you want to say about that particular issue.

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yeah, thanks, Helen.  Based on the good work that was undertaken by the Sentencing Advisory Commission there was that identification that, over the last 10 years or so, there has been an upsurge in young people who are embracing technology, and then using that technology to share both legal content, and what could be constituted as illegal content.

I think that there's a lack of understanding around what is actually child-exploitation material, and certainly, under the Queensland-based legislation, any image which depicts nudity of a child, who is under the age of 16, is child-exploitation material, and that holds true, whether the individual is taking the image of themselves.  Young people can unwittingly commit an offence by generating child-exploitation material.  Then, the issue is that they then on-send that to people who they might trust, boyfriends or girlfriends, and by doing that, not only do they have possession of what is regarded child-exploitation material, but they've also potentially committed an offence of transmitting child-exploitation material.

I think there was a real case there for prevention, and education around these issues, to get the messages out about what is child-exploitation material, and that people unwittingly find themselves in a position where they are committing offences, whilst not knowing about it.  There was a policy change, and I won’t talk specifically to the policy, but what I will say there needs to be a distinction between a person who might take an image, which is considered inappropriate, which is then shared to trusted individuals.  The message I would give in that situation, and this holds true no matter what your age is, but certainly if you're a young person, if you're taking an image or a selfie – let's call it a selfie, because that's a common vernacular – if you're taking an image, and you intend to share that with somebody else, before you hit the send button, think about what that image represents, and whether you'd be comfortable with members of your family seeing that image – your parents, your aunts, or uncles.

How would you feel if you posted that image on your Facebook or Twitter feed? If you have some reservations about that, my advice would be don't send that image, because once you do, you lose control of that image, and once you lose that control, that image can end up anywhere on the Internet, through a variety of people who you didn't intend it to go to.  I think that's where you change the boundaries of a criminal investigation is once the image has been sent to somebody else, and that person then decides to share that onto other people.  Once a person has made a decision, who has received an image, they've made the decision to share that on, I guess you're breaching the privacy, and the respect, and the trust of the person who sent that image to you in the first place.  That opens up a whole variety of pathways, as a police officer, for how we then deal with that, and manage that issue.

Kathy McLeish:

Once the horse has bolted, once that image is out there, how difficult can it be to stop it?

Wayne Steinhardt:

It’s difficult. It is difficult to stop, because you rely on...  Once you identify a person who has shared that image, you rely on that person, when you interview them, being truthful as to what they did with the image, who they shared that with.  It's difficult, because that person...  it’s like a wildfire.  Potentially, that image can go to one person; it can go to two; it can go to 10; it can go to 20.  That's why I say it's difficult to reel that back in.

Kathy McLeish:

Rob, what are you seeing in the schools?  Is this the sort of thing that often bounces up?  Do schools often see it first?

Rob Priddey:

I don't know if they would see it first.  It has to be alerted to school leaders, in the first place, or a teacher. Schools, and teaching staff have mandatory reporting in regards to those kinds of behaviours.  That's under The Education General Provisions Act, or the Child Protection Act; that has mandatory reporting by teachers and school leaders.  When they are alerted to these situations, they are sometimes obligated to, depending on the circumstances, notify, via a Student Protection notification, through the school's network, which goes to the police, goes to Child Services, and is then assessed on how it's responded to.

In regards to what I'm seeing, from when school leaders are ringing our team for advice, is the image will be spread out far wider than the relationship that it was exchanged in, and then, it's gone around the school, and then it is in the hands of the police and dealt with by law enforcement.

Kathy McLeish:

How likely is it that kids will speak up, and how quickly will they get help?

Rob Priddey:

What I've often seen with young people, research shows that the first person they'll speak to is probably go to their friends and then seek advice. Whether that be right that they go to their friend for that advice, and young people being armed with that information when they go to their friend for some help is very critical, in knowing, as a young person, how to help their friend out.  Going up to the person, delete it, delete the photo.  Did you send it to anyone else?  Did you store it in the cloud?  Helping them out, asking if they're okay.  We teach the children, when we speak to them, go to a trusted teacher that they know.  Here’s Kids Helpline, headspace, there’s the Office of the Youth Safety Commission they can report to, to help them get that image down.

Kathy McLeish:

What are you hearing back from kids, when you're out in the schools, telling them all of this.  What kinds of feedback do you get?

Rob Priddey:

Sometimes, they'll come up to us afterwards, and say, "My friend sent this image..."   We give them some advice.  We teach them about image sharing, and what Wayne said about the audience sometimes is far larger, and the students are making what I say is poor choices.  In the heat of the moment, they're exchanging these photographs.  It's a choice they're making, and not thinking about where the image may end up.

Kathy McLeish:

Mark, how does this happen?  Why isn't it natural for kids to think, "Well, maybe it's not a good idea to send a nude photo of myself..."?

Mark Kebbell:

Well, I think children can often be impulsive and often it seems like a good idea at that particular moment.  It may be in the context of a relationship, where they're sharing images with one another, and don't expect it to go beyond the two people that are sharing images with each other.  I think children become more aware of the dangers of sharing images, particularly as they get older, into the...  17-18, but they do seem to be more aware than they used to be.  Still, part of being young is doing silly things, isn't it? That's why we're spending so much time educating and teaching, at that point.

Kathy McLeish:

Given there's such a wide spectrum of severity, and the extreme sort of ramifications of, or illegality, extent of the illegality of the image, or the act of sending it, how do you assess that risk?  Whether it's just being impulsive, and a kid who hasn't realised that you shouldn't have sent that image on, or is basically innocent, and something more severe?

Mark Kebbell:

That's a real challenge, and we always look for easy ways of categorising people I guess, so this kind of image then you're this bad, or if you're doing it this way, then that's how risky you are in the future, but you have to really look at the circumstances, as a whole.  For example, with George, if that is an accurate account, and there's nothing beyond that which has happened, then you'd say he's made a mistake, he understands the consequences for the victim, and he's probably unlikely to do it again.

However, if you go and dig deeper into his background, and find that this is one of multiple cases, where he's done something similar, or where he's been quite coercive in trying to get images, for example, making threats, blackmail, or preying on people who are vulnerable, then you'd have a very different opinion of that person, and the risk that he might pose.

Kathy McLeish:

Is that the kind of information that is informing policies, police, and legislation?  Is that the kind of thing police need to be equipped with, I guess, that sort of information?

Mark Kebbell:

The police are facing a real challenge, in that they've got limited resources, and lots of reports of sex crimes.  They don't have the resources to exhaustively investigate every allegation.  It's a real challenge for them.  Obviously, they have systems that tell them if someone's got a history of offending, a history of allegations against them, and they use that to decide how much resources they're going to put into that investigation.

Kathy McLeish:

Do we have a sense of how dangerous this is; what percentage is dangerous, and what percentage is..."

Mark Kebbell:

It's really tricky.  As you can imagine, talking to teenagers about sex is quite a challenge, in itself. For example, I've got a 15-year-old boy who said he would rather die than come and listen to me talking… So getting accurate information from people is a real challenge, ethically.  Do many of us want psychologists to talk to our children about their sexual desires, and what they might be doing online?  Most of us would be quite reluctant.

When people answer surveys, we're not quite sure how accurately they're answering.  They may portray themselves in a more positive light.  When we look at, broadly speaking, we get up to about 30% of people in the round about 17 to 18 years old, who are sharing general erotic images.  Of course, that means most of it, it's more of the kind of a pouty, and a little bit of cleavage kind of thing.  We don't have really good data on what's happening at, particularly, the extreme ends of things.

Kathy McLeish:

Helen, what did the review turn up, in terms of male/female, who's involved?

Helen Watkins:

I think that, overwhelmingly, they were, if I remember correctly, it was mostly girls providing images, and boys distributing.  But in many of the cases, and including the case of George, a bit of additional backstory for George was that the male who had originally distributed the image, had coerced the image out of the girl.  There's a lot of reports of, especially from young girls, and sometimes, boys, too, where they're feeling, to fit in, that they are bullied, or ridiculed, or exiled from a friend group, if they don't share the image. That, then, crosses that boundary that Wayne was talking about, in terms of what the police would consider then to be more serious behaviour, and potentially that repetitive predatory type of behaviour where you're seeing this level of coercion and deliberate targeting of offenders.

But I think so for the most part it's probably girls sharing the original image, but boys then sharing it on from there.  You're getting more and more where there is a level of other types of aggravation such as intoxication with drugs and/or alcohol where the images aren't being taken by the original female victim they're being taken by male offenders who have intoxicated, deprived the person of the capacity to know what's going on and they're sharing that.  And they're very serious issues that obviously do require the full gamut of criminal justice investigations and sentencing options.

Kathy McLeish:

Wayne, how prevalent is that? Are we seeing rising numbers in that? What are the police dealing with?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Look it’s always been there, it's a problem. As Mark said it has resourcing implications.  However, what I can say is we take every matter seriously.  We will investigate complaints that are made to us in relation to this.  Specifically, we’ll focus effort and resources into those ones where there is predatory behaviour, where there's coercion, where the image has been on-shared by a person who was initially subject of that conversation and then decides to share it to other people.  Or where someone has, just through a momentary lapse of reason or made an error of judgement, as Rob discussed, I think we need to show consideration about that because once that image then gets shared out beyond that, beyond that trusted relationship that has serious ramifications for that person that has generated the image in the first place.

But where the image has been shared without the consent of the person who has generated that image in the first place I think it's serious and we will do certainly, as an investigator, I will do what I can to make sure that those matters are appropriately investigated and the appropriate course of action is taken. And that will be on a scale based on the level of the offending.  And there's a number of pathways that we can take to address that.

Kathy McLeish:

Can we talk about some of the pathways?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yeah, so it depends on the level of offending.  It depends on a person's previous actions, whether they've been dealt with previously through the system and obviously there's the opportunity through the Youth Justice Act to caution people who may not have been aware of what they were actually doing and the implications of that. There’s conferencing for serious offenders who are showing a pattern of behaviour.  There's obviously offences under the Queensland Criminal Code.  But that's an escalating scale, depending on the circumstances.  I won’t talk about George's case specifically.  I have no knowledge about that, but certainly speaking to young people like George, I would as an investigator, like to know what happened with that material when he first got that and whether that was shared with anybody else.

I would really like to get the message out there that if you are an innocent party and that you've received something that may be considered a child exploitation material or inappropriate, my advice is just delete it off your phone straight away, don't hold it, don't hang onto it.  I think that message would be received when young people start to understand the implications of their actions, which is why I applaud forums like this to get that message out that potentially you are committing an offence by having possession of that material.  So if you inadvertently get that, just delete it. And then exactly like George said, then report it to a responsible person.

Kathy McLeish:

Mark, I can see you nodding.  How important is this research?  How important is it that we understand these kinds of, of numbers and who's involved and to what degree it’s really extreme and illegal behaviour, and to what extent it's just a learning curve, almost.

Mark Kebbell:

I think it's constantly changing and we’re still learning.  We don't have good data on so many different parts of this. For instance, we don't know what the long-term consequences for victims are.  For instance, we've got anecdotal reports that people who have these images distributed, in the future become very anxious, they become depressed because they don't know who’s seen them.  They could be walking down Queen Street outside here and they're unaware of what people who are coming towards them have actually seen these images and that creates a real worry for them that may stay with them for a long time. It seems to be particularly when they are older and therefore they’re adult, the faces won't change, but we don't have good data from that.  This is purely anecdotal information.

Kathy McLeish:

Rob what are you seeing in the schools?  Are kids getting it or is it a slow uptake or are we just starting fresh with each kid that's coming through?

Rob Priddey:

From my experience of lecturing I think the kids know the laws now, they know it's an offence to have it on their phones.  Some, as Wayne was saying, they'll keep it on their phone and just forget about it.  Then when you go and speak to them about it and remind them of it, they’ll you know… and in particular speaking about image sharing, particularly you see the girls paying attention and the boys not so and then realising maybe I’ve sent one of these images. The real message is we tell them the legal consequences and the social consequences and how to deal with it if they’ve made one of these choices and how to respond and take positive action and either get help or get the image removed.

Kathy McLeish:

Right.  Helen, the review also looked at the impact on investigators as well, dealing with the massive number of images coming through.  What did it find?

Helen Watkins:

I think that overwhelmingly whilst there was a high level of resilience and that's a testament to both the officers involved and also the services involved in terms of the Queensland Police Service and the Crime and Corruption Commission, and then they have very robust internal processes for taking care of their staff welfare, but undoubtedly the same message coming through all the time is this level of frustration of feeling like there was never enough that officers felt that they could do that the task was increasing.

Definitely the data showed that as the use of the internet, as availability of internet based devices and connectivity improves and things now like the cloud – we're just talking about the clear net here, we're not even delving into the dark net, which is a whole other set of horrors – that there's been this digital explosion that resourcing probably hasn't kept up with and that was one of the significant issues.  Is there are things that can be done to deal with much of this, but they need to be appropriately resourced in order for them to be effective and I think that that's something that we're all still working towards.

Kathy McLeish:

Wayne, this is really an area for you as well isn’t it, in technology and innovation in technology to deal with some of this.  What are some of the things that have been directed towards this?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Well, my personal experience in this space is there's been a sharp decrease in the amount of digital content which is child exploitation material that is being seized in investigations compared to say 10 or 12 years ago.  I think that's largely driven by high speed Internet and so people are able to access material a lot quicker.

Kathy McLeish:

They don't have to hold onto it.

Wayne Steinhardt:

There was a time 10 years ago when you would try to download a five-megabyte file and it can take half a day.

Kathy McLeish:

And the phone would cut out half way!

Wayne Steinhardt:

And, of course once you’ve got that you’re not going to get rid of it because it takes so long to get the content but the content is so quick now with high speed networks.  So I don't see as much as what we used to of people hoarding.

There's also been certainly progression in the way that we analyse the content that we seize by matching and removing content that is already known about or previously seen which then generates a much smaller subset of material that needs to be reviewed by the investigators.

So that's certainly increased the processes because if you can minimise the amount of content that you need to review because stuff that's already known about has been removed, it increases your opportunities to identify real contact offending, which is what our ultimate goal is.  That's to identify victims of abuse and then put in place intervention strategies to rescue and protect those children.  So we're working towards that and technology is certainly providing avenues for us to address that.

Kathy McLeish:

It's growing at an enormous pace as well as isn't it?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yes, it is it.

Helen Watkins:

Kathy, there was another issue that had come up in our research and that was the progression from stored images, whether they be single images or video to live streaming and that's becoming more of a problem.  I think that segues into the issue we're talking about tonight more so from the type of apps that appeal to our target group of teenagers like Snapchat.  They believe that if they use something like that, that it's there and it's taken, but they're not considering that someone could be actually capturing that image and then keeping it.  Rob, you might have some other stories about that.

Rob Priddey:

There’s a story in the newspapers where a group of hackers breached Snapchat’s security.

Helen Watkins:

That's right.

Rob Priddey:

And stole hundreds of thousands of photographs and then linked them publicly. So a term and condition of Snapchat is they keep obviously a copy of your photographs going through their servers, so you're relying on their security.

Helen Watkins:

So these kind of, we all know when we were teenagers once too, if anyone can believe it, we all took risks at that time.  That's just part of being a teenager.  So the risk taking, there's some teen belief around digital use now that they can control the risk by using certain apps and that's not necessarily the case.

Kathy McLeish:

So, Rob, what are the schools doing?  What sort of technology has come up for education department and for the schools in kind of capturing some of this and putting a stop to it?

Rob Priddey:

In regards to like filtering?

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah, and picking, you know, sort of picking up activity like that around the school...

Rob Priddey:

Okay, well, all Queensland state schools have a filtering system and it’s very [indistinct] and that blocks out all the social use, through the Department’s network.  Of course, the mobile phones they have 3G and 4G connectivity so having school systems block that content is a difficult task.  That relies on school policies in regards to mobile phone use and that's a school by school approach in regards to that.  So that content can’t be controlled by schools.  If it’s reported and they break school rules then it's based on the responsible behaviours for students, school principals are empowered in regards to what consequences they have for students breaching those school rules.

Kathy McLeish:

What are the rules around smartphones and phones in schools being made kind of in line with this issue or...?

Rob Priddey:

Yeah, look each school creates that responsible behaviour plan in conjunction with the community, with the parents and the students and they make those rules in regards to phone use.  They have templates in regards to private use of social media.  Whereas schools are provided that and they can amend those appendixes to the responsible behaviour plan or code of school behaviour, they are provided to schools and the schools sit down with their community and develop those standards for their community.

Kathy McLeish:

If an issue is raised how quickly can there be response?  Can the photo be taken down?  Is there something that can be done?

Rob Priddey:

That's why our team was created, to help principals have a bit of a hand. They aren’t detective Principals sometimes they…

Kathy McLeish:

So what happens for a principal when they, you know, sort of what did they have to do?

Rob Priddey:

A lot of principals they don't know about Snapchat.  They don't know Musical.ly, they don’t know the technologies that the kids are using.  They've got a great source of knowledge, the kids know it, that's for sure.  They reach out to our team for some advice in regards to strategies of dealing with the images.  Throughout the seven years I've been in education we’ve built up some pretty strong relationships with the social media companies and have the ability to contact them for the really severe content, whether it's bullying or whether it's inappropriate images and have that content removed through those relationships so they are pretty strong.   Also, they are probably referred to the police as well, in regards to the sexting related images.  So our ability to get content down on the major platforms is quite good.

Kathy McLeish:

So can you give us an example of what might happen?

Rob Priddey:

Examples.  Well, it was current today – that's pretty current.  Helping out a school, primary school, year 6 students who had Musical.ly. Look, the age of consent for Musical.ly – for all these major platforms is 13.  Parents are obviously allowing their children to have these apps prior to that age of consent, to agree to it.  They’ve obviously lied about their age, they’ve probably said they’re 55. Now I’ve lost track of where I was going.

Kathy McLeish:

An example?

Helen Watkins:

The issue was on Musical.ly, I think, this young lady.

Rob Priddey:

Yeah, Musical.ly.  This young girl was on Musical.ly and had a large number of contacts on her Musical.ly account and was obviously seeking some more attention.  Maybe she was going through a difficult patch in her life.  I don’t know, looking for that more attention.

Kathy McLeish:

This is going to show my ignorance at the distance between me and being 13, but what is that?

Rob Priddey:

Musical.ly is an app where people create their profile and they mime to popular songs.  You can go and mime to Justin Bieber if you like.  It's very popular in primary schools.  Young people are very embarrassed once they hit high school that they’ve actually had it.  Yeah, they’re more into Instagram, Snapchat, and then later on they’ll hit Facebook.

Kathy McLeish:

Right.

Rob Priddey:

But this young girl made some poor choices and unwittingly made these choices. Probably not knowing the ramifications where the images were going with her large number of contacts.  And this young person was scared of her parents seeing what was on her phone, refused to give the codes to the phone and would not provide the account name for the Musical.ly account. But we found it out and within four minutes we had that account down.

Kathy McLeish:

Wow, so it can be pretty effective.

Rob Priddey:

There's a lot of content that cannot be removed off the internet.  I’m saying some of the large social media platforms have a really good responsibility and are very proactive now in their reporting systems.

Kathy McLeish:

Wayne, to what extent do we just see things get out of control where it can’t be brought back?

Wayne Steinhardt:

It just snowballs.  I'm like, even something that might get posted on a site such as Facebook or Musical.ly or whatever, you know, like Helen spoke about people who do screen grabs of that material.  So even though you can contact the vendor and get this material taken down, you don't know whether someone's actually taken a screen grab of that particular image or that video and then shares that on somewhere else.

Rob Priddey:

I agree.  And then Snapchat there’s some third party apps that takes screenshots without notifying the original sender that a screen shot has been taken, things like SnapHack, SnapSave.

Wayne Steinhardt:

So, you don't know.  You don't know as an individual or you don't know as a young person the extent to which that material's been shared and then that just elevates the concern and the regret and the emotions that are attached to that for that particular individual. So that's why I say my advice is to always consider what it is you’re intending to share because you have no control once you let it out of your possession.  It goes for adults too, not just children.

Kathy McLeish:

You know, this is such a changing space, such a dynamic, fast moving space.  How do we tackle this in terms of legislation and policy and you know, how much work needs to be done and can it hope to keep up?

Helen Watkins:

Well, I think that there have been a lot of inroads with social media companies over recent years, from both a state-based and a national perspective in improving the capacity for social media organisations to be responsible for cooperating with authorities in identifying this material and assisting to take it down.  So that's been one of the probably most significant changes.  It's still developing, but that's coming up.  Having an E-Safety Commissioner has been another great thing, and one of the things that we all have identified in our research on the child exploitation material is that there are a lot of great organisations out there doing work in this area, but not necessarily great coordination.

In Queensland here, one of our recommendations was that we have an E-Safe Q commissioner of our own so that we can start harnessing and coordinating.  Because education's the most significant factor for both children and their parents is being aware because consistently that's what we find is that children that are creating and sending these images aren't necessarily considering, the consequences are that there are potentially a lot of very motivated predators out there who will use many means to get these images and use them for other purposes.

So I think overwhelmingly and everyone else, I think working with teenagers would see this, that initially, at least this level of unawareness that what they're doing is an offence.  That this consideration, that if you know the age of consent for sex is 16, then they should be able to send erotic images of themselves as well and not understanding why it's against the law.  So there's that level of unawareness and I guess there's that, wanting to keep up with other people.  We spoke earlier before the session about that when I grew up showing that level of skin was considered to be quite inappropriate.  Whereas now, it's actually there's a level of desensitisation I guess that's occurred so that showing bare breasts is not such an issue nowadays as it once was previously.

And then I guess when you, if you really look at some of the worst cases that Wayne, you would definitely have seen them and we saw through the child exploitation material research was the children that are repeatedly exposed to these things become desensitised as well.  So they engage in these activities on almost automatic level where they're not necessarily considering about what's going to happen to them when I apply for a job in 15 years and this image is everywhere and it prevents them from pursuing their career or their relationships and those sorts of things.

Kathy McLeish:

And hang over them as a huge worry.

Mark Kebbell:

I would like to add to that.  Whereas some people might be naïve, there are certainly some very aggressive young people as well who are very concerning in their sexual behaviour.  A large number of our sex offenders actually are under the age of 18 and from those ones who have made silly mistakes, there are also some ones who are very concerning.

Kathy McLeish:

Is there a culture, is there a risk of a growing culture of this kind of ability to coerce young girls to post photos or are we seeing anything there? Do we have data that indicates that?

Mark Kebbell:

I don't think we have data, but we do see a real range of ways in which people try and get images from the “go on, go on” or “come on, I won't share it” or “everyone else does it show me the picture” right through to “I'm going to say this, if you don't send me these images”.  It's very varied.  I guess this goes straight to sentencing.  I don't think there’s a real alternative to really finding out what's happened and making a decision on the whole circumstances rather than just looking at the bare bones.

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah.  Rob, are you - you're all nodding in furious agreement.

Rob Priddey:

I think we’ve all had experiences like that.  I’ve had experience in helping out principals where images are being held against young girls, “If you don’t send me more, I'm going to send these to your friends, or your family”.  And that's when it needs a police response.

Wayne Steinhardt:

That's clearly, clearly inappropriate remark.  So we would treat that with all the seriousness that it deserves and we see the full spectrum and that is something that we just won’t tolerate.

Kathy McLeish:

That's a red flag.

Wayne Steinhardt:

It is, most definitely.

Kathy McLeish:

So what about sort of need for this is really, it's a global framework, isn't it? So how important is it that this is, you know, Helen talked about the need to have an E-Commissioner and that sort of work.  How important is it that there is a national and international response?

Wayne Steinhardt:

It's a community problem, right, and no one agency is going to solve this issue and, and there was no one that I know, there's no agency I know in the world that tries to do child protection work in isolation.  It's about strong, committed relationships between agencies and between the people who are sitting in this forum and between members of the community to work together.  And we talk about the education, we talk about the prevention, it's all about sharing a message.  I take every opportunity I can to talk to both parents and young people about the risks associated.  If someone chooses to do something but they've done that because they've been informed, then so be it.  My concern is there's a lot of people who just make really rash ill-considered decisions in the heat of the moment and they don't understand the ramifications of that.

So I think it's really important that we have strong committed networks to work together to come up with solutions.  And certainly, I don't have the solution to all these problems and in fact I work within a legal framework at the reactive end, but I’m also committed to proactive approaches and strategies.

Kathy McLeish:

Rob, are we seeing the penny slowly drop amongst school kids or is it, you know, is it new all the time.

Rob Priddey:

Incidents are popping up into our team, from Schools.  Obviously, I don’t see them all because apart from our team there’s eight student protection officers which help out each region of schools in Queensland.  So a lot of the incidents in regards to child protection, they are notified and so I don’t hear all of the jobs that are happening.  But the ones I do hear, are younger and younger in regards to linking up on one of these platforms and making, sending inappropriate pictures at a younger age, which is quite alarming to me and maybe to you guys as well that they’re jumping on Musical.ly in grade five and six and connecting with people they I have no idea who they are.

Wayne Steinhardt:

They’re obviously receiving messages from people that that's okay. And that could be their friends who are encouraging them because their friends are doing it.  Or it could be the other end of the spectrum where they're being coerced to do it.

Kathy McLeish:

Mark and Helen, this is your sort of area of expertise, the psychology and the trend.  Do we, could we potentially see a change to this desensitisation or is there study in where it's headed?

Mark Kebbell:

I think that's where we were talking about...

Helen Watkins:

Yeah, you go.

Mark Kebbell:

I think older teens are becoming aware of the consequences and you're being more careful.  There is, I think a need for making this to be more socially unacceptable, particularly amongst boys.  To be seen as something which is really the wrong thing to do and that's one way of kind of trying to reduce this.

Helen Watkins:

I also see that there's been a big drive towards exploring how we can combat bullying and this is kind of one of those related areas in that the level of coercion does cross that line and become bullying.  So there could be the capacity to join this up with other initiatives where there's a greater level of awareness about the issue of consent and what constitutes consent because that's really poorly understood, not just by adolescents but by many adults as well.  So being informed and for parents and caregivers to be recognising and attending to their responsibility with this rather than – Rob and I have done a number of school based cyber safety forums and over and again, we hear terrified parents who are overwhelmed by the digital world and it's time for them to step up and become educated and there's a lot of ways that they can do that reliably, is that they should not allow their children to engage in platforms that they have no awareness of because I guess that's kind of just like letting your child out in the middle of nowhere and saying “fend for yourself”.

So I guess that personal responsibility is an issue, collaborative efforts with other initiatives to be able to say about boundaries and space and I think that there's been a lot of success with certain forums using really good role models.  I'm hoping to see with some of the initiatives that are underway at the moment in other areas that they start using role models to say this is not okay. Because that seems to be something that does have gravitas with teenagers is that they want to be like someone else that they see as being a noted individual.  And if that person’s sending a message saying, this is not okay to ask for this, it's not okay to give this, then hopefully that will make a big dent in the victims and perpetrators of sexting, image-based abuse exchange to recognise that it's not socially acceptable and it's not going to be tolerated.

Kathy McLeish:

Is there a movement towards that?  Are we seeing some sort of education in that arena, Rob?

Rob Priddey:

Education, they’re taught respectful relationships and it’s built into the curriculum from grade 2 right up to grade 12.  So, those messages in regards being respectful are built in and have been brought in compulsorily for a couple years now, so, those messages are there.  And, there's also the Daniel Morcombe Curriculum which has elements of cyber safety which is not compulsory, but it is encouraged for schools to do, and then each school has an approach on its own, in the HPE context.  They’ll either bring in their own cyber safety that they develop through the beginning of the year.  They plan out what sessions they're going to have in regards to these issues, maybe bringing our team in, maybe bringing a certified provider from the E-Safety Commisser, and having sessions with the students, and making them aware of these issues.

Kathy McLeish:

To what degree do you think do you think parents are at a loss?  Do they not understand where they're...

Rob Priddey:

Well, parents are supplying their children, younger and younger, with smart devices, which gives them that ability to connect with anyone in the world. And they're downloading apps which the parents have no idea that they're on their phones.  They are giving these phones, and then the child's saying, "Well, this is my phone, this is my privacy."  And parents aren't being parents.  This is actually your phone, you have a right to that phone, and grabbing the phone and having some spot checks on it.

Kathy McLeish:

So, is that a cultural shift as well?  Do you think that we need to achieve that parents understand that this is the same as saying, "I don't want you to go and play with so and so because we don't know them?"

Rob Priddey:

I think we all have that same understanding.  You wouldn’t let your child go down to Westfield or Chermside and start flicking out selfies.  That's the same idea as going on social media and having a public account, and putting yourself in a bikini, out there, not knowing the risks that that may putting themselves in.

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah.  Wayne, are you seeing that, that parents need to understand more as well, their power in this?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yeah.  Look, I do, but I don't want to apportion all the blame to the parents.  It is a tough environment because young people, they're going to school with other young people, their friends have the latest smartphones, they want the latest smartphones, they put pressure on their parents to get the latest smartphones, and the parents succumb to that pressure because that's what you do when you have kids and you love them.  So, I think there just needs to be awareness around what it is that you're providing your child access to, and there would be a lot of parents that don't know the applications that are out there that Rob's talking about.  Because unless you're using it, or you're involved in those networks, you're not aware of what it is, and you're not aware of the implications of your children having access to those things.

I think the obligation is on parents to be responsible to teach themselves, as Helen said, to be aware of what is out there, and not just blindly hand a phone over, and just think that your child's going to be appropriate with it. Because there’s very real risks out there, and it's communication between parents and children.  And it's about opening up those channels of communication and being able to have those conversations with them where, number one, your child doesn't feel threatened, and they feel that they can come to you when there's something inappropriate that might come in on that phone, and they can share that with you.

And that only comes when you have those open lines of communication.  So, it's a two-way street.  I just don't want to point the finger at the parents.

Kathy McLeish:

They're struggling with the same sorts of things, yeah.

Mark Kebbell:

Can I ask Wayne a question?

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yes.

Mark Kebbell:

With all this software you can install on devices, do you think that's something useful for parents to monitor what's going on?

Wayne Steinhardt:

I think it's useful. If I had kids, my kids would get Nokia 3310.

Kathy McLeish:

A dumb phone.

Wayne Steinhardt:

They can take and receive calls, they can...  I think that software is really helpful, but again, you're going to get into battles where your child's not going to be able to access the latest applications that their friends can.  "But mum, my friends are all over that.  They've got accounts there, I want to have an account there too." So, it's something that you need to monitor all the time, and when your child comes to you and says, "Here's this new platform that my friends are on," then my advice would be to have a look at the platform, generate an account yourself, even under a fictitious name so you can navigate that, and see what it is, and what it represents.  And then, once you're comfortable with it, then provide access through that software that's on the phone.

Kathy McLeish:

And Rob, you’d suggest filtering as well?

Rob Priddey:

Students have filters at schools, that filter them and have rules there, and parents should have rules at home.  I'm a big believer in sitting down with your child, and setting up those rules, and making an agreement at home, much like they have at schools.  And have some real consequences, not go to the harshest one and say, "I'm going to rip your phone off of you for the next 12 months." That's got to be your ace in your pack but having consequences for if they break the agreed rules.  So, it's almost like an ICT user agreement for the home.  So, I think that's a good one.

The hierarchy of a young person going through school, they may experience a tough time online and probably the most important thing that George brought up in his video was that having that trust to go to the parent, or if they're not having that trust with the parent, knowing where to go to get some help.

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah.

Rob Priddey:

Not keeping it bottled to themselves because we've seen all the tragic circumstances that have happened in media very recently, where children have kept that information for themselves, and haven't reached out for that help.

Mark Kebbell:

You can have that conversation early with your children so they know, before there's a problem, that they can talk to you about it.

Kathy McLeish:

So, start early.

Mark Kebbell:

Yeah, because children don't like the intensity of talking about these kinds of things.  If you have a car, one way of having this conversation is whilst you're driving because you're not staring at each other it’s much easier to have those conversations.

Kathy McLeish:

And they can't get away.

Rob Priddey:

Again, platforms we haven't probably mentioned tonight, they're exactly the same as the social media apps.

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah, right.

Rob Priddey:

There's some...

Helen Watkins:

Minecraft, which many young boys, especially, they love Minecraft.  And most parents think, "Oh, it's just this great game where they can meet friends." But they don't necessarily recognise that, as well as other age mates, there are lots of predators that know that young boys like those platforms.  So, they set up profiles pretending to be young boys, and that's the reality.

Rob Priddey:

But what an opportunity for parents.  Your child's playing these games, you may be thinking, "Oh, it's just for them." What a time it is for you to sit with them, maybe engage with them.

Helen Watkins:

Exactly.

Rob Priddey:

Build that trust up, and that rapport up with them while you're playing, say, Fortnite.

Helen Watkins:

That's right.

Rob Priddey:

Learning what they're doing.  Jumping out of the bus.

Kathy McLeish:

Yeah and getting an understanding as well.  Helen, there were 16 recommendations.  Were there any other key ones that you thought really stood out?

Helen Watkins:

I think that, in relation to this particular topic tonight, we've probably covered the significant ones.  I mean, we did recommend that the oldest scale be changed, that was a critical factor, and that relates more to both the streamlining internationally, and keeping us in line.  This is a global issue, it's not just a Queensland-based issue, or an Australia-based issue.  So, that was the critical nexus of our recommendations.  But then, the other recommendations around the Q E-Safe Commissioner, that was very critical to being able to harness, locally, all of these wonderful resources that we see, and being able to inform people.  Because it's one thing for us to have an expectation that children and their parents will be responsible, but then it's another thing to provide them with the resources that can assist them in that.

And I think the other major recommendation that we have covered also was around the fact that we recognised that, for any great initiative to be effective, it has to be appropriately resourced.  So, I think, Wayne, you definitely would know about that.

Wayne Steinhardt:

Well and truly.

Helen Watkins:

And especially as it's an expanding phenomenon.  We don’t want to be… Wayne, you talked about yourself being reactive, that's not how we want to operate.  We don't want to be chasing after this, we want to get right out there in front of it and have a capacity for prevention.  Whilst we are a sentencing advisory council, and we look at issues of sentencing, we also can't ignore our responsibility when we see these very significant issues like 48% of offenders being people in this age group that are affected by this, and significantly affected in many cases.

Kathy McLeish:

And potentially a number that could be turned around.

Helen Watkins:

I think, out of that, and Wayne, correct me if I'm wrong, but I would say that the vast majority of those offenders would be like George, who became involved inadvertently.  Didn't recognise it was an offence, didn't intentionally set out to exploit anyone. But then, you also have to consider that there will be some in there who will be exploitive for their own means, or exploiting other people, potentially, to sell the images on to others and those sorts of things.

Kathy McLeish:

Can I just, as we finish up this part, and then we'll go to a Q&A, but just from each of you, a key thing that you'd like to see happen in the area. What do you think would make a big change?

Rob Priddey:

For me, parents.  Not putting everything on parents, but parents taking an active involvement with their child at home, with their devices.  If they don't understand something, sit with them.  They know these apps inside out, and back to front. And they're like little intel networks at school, they'll talk to each other's friends, and they'll try to deceive you as a parent to get around your rules.  But, parent education, for me, is a big piece.

Kathy McLeish:

So, make themselves more empowered.

Wayne Steinhardt:

Yeah, fostering those strong networks in the child protection space, and following on what Helen said about the E-Safety Commissioner of Queensland. One centralised area that can coordinate the tasks of, somewhat disparate agencies, come together and work together to project, and get the messages out.

Helen Watkins:

Yeah, that pretty much says making awareness...  People can do something about it if they're aware of it, and overwhelmingly, the adolescents involved aren't aware that it's an issue, until they're informed that it is.  Being able to give them a set of strategies for how they can deal with it if it happens, and how to prevent it from happening.  And then, also of course, impressing upon parents whilst we're not wanting to blame them, but we do want them to take responsibility that, if they're handing their child a device that has such a capacity to cause them potential harm, then there's a great level of responsibility that comes, and they are the key to being able to instil in that child an awareness about the responsible measures that they need to undertake.

Kathy McLeish:

Mark?

Mark Kebbell:

What I'd like to see is boys making it less acceptable to distribute these images amongst themselves.  I think they need to step up, and some of those young men, as they are, need to really stand up for people who might be victims of this.

Kathy McLeish:

Fantastic.  So, we'll turn now to questions from the floor.  Put your hand up, and tell us who you are, and where you're from.  Do we have anybody that would like to ask something of this expert panel?

Female:

Okay.  I am here tonight as the director of the secretariat that supports the Sentencing Advisory Council.  But I'm just sitting here as a completely unwitting parent as well, and just listening to some of it, this is more of a reflection more than anything else.  But, listening to your comments about responsibility of parents, and reflecting on my own children who are still in primary school, but very much active online, on those gaming platforms, like Minecraft and so forth, and knowing the vulnerability that they have, particularly my daughter who's 11, and just reaching that point where that real wish to get in good with the friends, and all of that sort of stuff, that real vulnerability you can see.  Feeling very much that I need to go home and speak to them both about their online presence, just a reflection.  Thank you all very much, that's, as a parent, just incredibly useful.

Kathy McLeish:

Anyone else?  Where can parents go for that sort of information?  Oh, sorry, we'll move the microphone over.  Is there somewhere that they can go?

Rob Priddey:

Yeah.  Obviously, the E-Safety Commissioner.  They have a one-stop shop for parents, they have an I-Portal and there's so many resources there for parents, teachers, students. It's the number one resource.

Helen Watkins:

Yeah, and I think they have some critical fact sheets around the first things that parents should be doing is installing some sort of filtering device, making it your business to actually know who your children are friends with, and making sure that the privacy settings are appropriate on all of those devices as well.  Anything else, Rob?

Rob Priddey:

Privacy's so important for me.

Helen Watkins:

Yeah, so important.

Rob Priddey:

Yeah, their privacy.

Kathy McLeish:

All right, we're ready.

Nicola:

My name's Nicola, I'm from [indistinct]. You mentioned the discretion that comes with charging or cautioning the perpetrators of this, or people who do distribute. How frequently do you find yourself using that kind of discretion to not charge young, or adolescent perpetrators?

Wayne Steinhardt:

I will only talk about my own personal experience and there's a variety of decision-making points where that occurs.  If I was to take in the example of George there, who became an unwitting person.  I'm not talking about his case specifically, because I don't know what happened there. The first point of call for me is to talk to the person who has been responsible for sharing this content.  As I've said, where it’s a person whose generated it themselves, and they’ve made a gross judgement, I guess my personal approach would be about the education and speaking to the young person about that.

Where it's being shared on later on, it really comes down to all of the issues we've spoke about here.  How did they get that image in the first place?  Was it coerced?  Was it something where they used a position of power?  What's the difference in the, or the disparity, in that relationship that they had with that person?  Was it a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship of the same age, or was it a person who might have been intimidating or standing over?  Rob spoke about the threats that are sometimes made.

So, these are decisions that are made on a case by case basis, and it comes down to the particular individual that I might be interviewing, and what it is that they've done, and their level of culpability.  As I said, there is a range of options that are available. Introducing somebody to the criminal justice system, and charging them with a criminal offence, to me, that's escalating reasonably high, but it's appropriate if the circumstances suit it.

If there's a person who is, obviously, aware that they've done the wrong thing, they know they've committed an offence, but they've never been subject to an investigation, or have had occasion to be dealt by the police before, then cautioning might be appropriate in those circumstances.  And then, we take into account, obviously, the guidelines that are set down by the Director of Public Prosecutions as well and there is number of tests in there about whether it's in the public interest.

What I can say is, anyone who shares child exploitation material, irrespective of their age, it's a serious matter.  I see it as serious, and I'll treat it as serious.  But the outcome will be guided by the circumstances of that particular case.

Kathy McLeish:

[indistinct].  I think for the web, is that right?  No, it's fine.

Female:

We are the Regional Youth Support Coordinator for the Department of Education Metropolitan Region, so Brisbane.  I'm just wondering if you think that it's time that the curriculum in schools shifts to better reflect what's happening in our community?  For example, should we replace German lessons with social media awareness, or the use of devices, or how we can do that safely? Because I don't know about other people, I've never used my three years of German lessons, except for a couple of weeks in German, I wasn’t very good anyway.  But there's other subjects that are probably not that relevant to what's happening in our community at the moment.  Is it time that we shifted our curriculum to better reflect what's happening for our young people?  Just wondered what you thought?

Rob Priddey:

Look, clearly at the moment, there's been these messages are built into the curriculum into all different subjects from years two, right through year 12. Whether it has its own dedicated thing, I can't answer that, that's state schooling decision, and beyond my capacity to answer that.  But what's in the curriculum at the moment is built into all different subjects throughout from year two to year 12.

Female:

Across all schools?  Because I...

Rob Priddey:

It's in the Queensland state school system.

Female:

Okay, so where is the problem?  Because we’re not, you know, if it's there and kids are getting it, supposedly, are we giving the wrong messages, are they not getting the right content?  Because we've still clearly got a massive problem, and a growing problem.

Rob Priddey:

Yeah, there was a bunch of Royal Commission recommendations recently from the Royal Commission Institute of Child Sex Abuse, where one recommendation was that the E-Safety Commission generates that standard messaging that goes to students, or young people.  So, that is a recommendation that is being addressed at the moment.

Female:

Okay.

Mark Kebbell:

When we work with sex offenders in our jails, one of the main things we do is we try to get them to have empathy for the victims because some of them think that the victim wasn't particularly harmed, that they got over it very quickly and for those who can develop empathy, it's very successful.  So, I imagine from a schooling perspective, showing what the consequences can be, and certainly as well, when I first started doing work with contact and non-contact offenders, I thought the non-contact offenders were less serious than the contact offenders.  But then, sometimes, when you see what's happened to people that have had these images distributed, even though they haven't been physically abused but just had the images distributed, of one penetrative sex, for example, you become aware of actually how harmful this can be.

I think, also, as a final aside to this, we've got a lot other factors that are coming from social media.  In psychology we say, "Compare yourself up and you'll be depressed, compare yourself down and you’ll be happy."  So, if you compare yourself with people who are much better than yourself, then you'll be unhappy.  If you compare with people who are doing much worse than yourself, then you'll be grateful for where you are.  What social media is doing for a lot of children is it's allowing them to compare themselves with people who are doing much, much better than themselves, and that's having a consequence as well.

Wayne Steinhardt:

And that feeds into, we can have all the messages out there, which I think we can do more work in that space.  But, peer group pressure.  Even though, I'm certain young people are aware that this might be inappropriate, they get that pressure from their peers, and their peers are doing it, or, "the Kardashians are doing it, so I'm going to emulate that."  And it's all about wanting to belong and wanting to fit in, in some cases.  So, you need to be aware of what is actually driving an individual to want to share content of themselves that might be inappropriate because that will be a different response.

Helen Watkins:

And that leads on to a lot of content that addresses working with victims, or anyone who might see themselves as particularly vulnerable, and that's about building resilience.  And that's been a concept, that's been, thankfully, growing in interest amongst people over many years.  And resilience is one of those concepts that it's not a case of either you have it or you don't, it's something that you can develop at any age, in any circumstance. There’s some great information on reliable websites for parents to be able to have some tools for how to build resilience in their children.  And if they feel more self-confident, then they're going to be less vulnerable to being preyed upon by other people.

Vanessa:

Hi, I'm Vanessa, I'm with the Metropolitan Regional Office, I'm a principal advisor education services.  Thank you very much for your information and your time.  I just wanted to confirm that our schools...  I work for 52 secondary schools across the metropolitan region, and hi Rob, I've contacted your office a number of times, and thank you for the advice.  I did want to confirm that our schools are consistently delivering the message to our students around staying safe, and their wellbeing is of paramount importance to us, and to them.  But my question is really about whether you think principals should be sending this message, and it's difficult, sometimes, when you've got a tricky subject across in assemblies, or in a wide forum that way, and if so, how should they tackle that problem?  Because I advise that, and I’d like to be able to give the right advice around this.

Rob Priddey:

Well, as you know, every school makes their own decisions in regards to local school decisions, in regards to getting our team out there, each school decides whether they get us out there to speak to the students, whether they get Argos out there to speak to students, whatever programme they decide or go to the list of approved providers on the Office of E-Safety.  I mean, that's pretty well up to the principal and school leaders to decide when and when is the right time.  Yeah, our team is pretty heavily booked.

Vanessa:

I know, I know you’ve done a lot of work in that area.

Rob Priddey:

We lecture from grades 4 all the way through grade 12, and I think we've reached about 450 different state schools, so we’ve probably been to a lot of yours.

Vanessa:

Absolutely, absolutely.  So, that's great, we'll keep encouraging them.

Rob Priddey:

Whether the principals give that message themselves, or getting a team of experts of specialists in, again that's up to the local school decision.

Vanessa:

Thanks, Rob.

Rob Priddey:

Okay.

Kathy McLeish:

Any last questions?  We've got time for one more?  Good.

Female:

Not a question, a comment, I think it relates to that last question, was one of the things that we edited out of that clip with that young person was, we actually also asked him what he thinks schools should do, given that’s such a great environment for people to access information.  And he said, "I really like the fact these young people can come and talk to us, not you old people about their experience”.  And certainly, with the E-Safety Commissioner, that's one of the most used platforms they have, is they have real case studies on there of young people who describe their example, and what happened, and how it made them feel, and how they very quickly lost control of their image.  And that young person just reconfirmed that in their discussions, on that interview, saying that, "If you had young people talking about what really happened to them, it actually is a really good thing for us to understand that this is something that’s real."

Kathy McLeish:

Has that been your experience, Rob?

Rob Priddey:

I'd love to have more young people on our team, seriously.  I've got three young girls on the team with me, and when we present to secondary schools, they take me as the old person.  I’m with them, who are a lot younger and are playing with Snapchat a lot more frequently than me.  So, we try and get that balance in regards to teaching secondary schools, and I've had the vision of bringing in our students that have just reached first year of uni, second year of uni in to our team.  I'd love that to be the case, and I think it's definitely the right approach.

Kathy McLeish:

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our evening.  Thank you so much, and thank you to this amazing panel. It's been a fascinating discussion. As with most events, we're interested to hear your feedback.  Tomorrow you'll receive an email asking you to complete a short survey, and that will help us continue to improve our public information events and help determine the speakers for future presentations.  Details of the next seminars in our series will be on our website in a few weeks’ time, and a recording of tonight's seminar will be available on our website also.  The address is sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au.  So, that's sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au.

I’d like to thank our guest speakers tonight for supporting the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, and in particular to poor George for being prepared to come and talk to us about an event which he probably really would just have behind him.  I also would like to thank the secretariat for all your hard work, and staging the event tonight, and all the work in the lead-up, and join me in thanking our fabulous panel.

So, we all have a lot to think about after all of that conversation, I know I do.