Teacher among 11 charged over child porn
A VETERAN teacher at an exclusive Sydney boys’ preparatory school is among 11 men arrested in four states over images of child sexual abuse, bestiality and child sexual assault.
Gregory John Coupland, 40, a teacher and director of snow sports at The King’s Preparatory School in Parramatta, was arrested by federal police last month.
He was charged with possessing child abuse material, using the internet to access the material and making child abuse material available.
The Scout leader, from Forestville in Sydney’s north, was granted conditional bail and has resigned from the school where he taught for more than 10 years.
His arrest was one of six in NSW as part of a federal police investigation into ”peer-to-peer” swapping of child exploitation and abuse images through a global file-sharing network.
The headmaster of The King’s School, Tim Hawkes, said police had assured him the boys were not in danger. ”The school is shocked and dismayed by the matter,” he said. ”The matter relates to alleged activities engaged in by this person outside of the school.
”The police have assured us that they are satisfied that there’s no boy at risk at King’s.” Dr Hawkes said the school worked closely with police during the operation and informed only relevant parents and staff after Mr Coupland’s arrest to allow the investigation to continue unhindered. The Herald complied with a federal police request to delay publication of the investigation.
Another alleged offender in NSW, who cannot be identified, faces allegations that he had sexual intercourse with children aged under 10 years and under 14. Two children were ”removed from harm” during the four-month operation.
A 38-year-old, who also cannot be named, was formally refused bail in Moree Local Court in the state’s north-west this month. He faces charges of bestiality and accessing child abuse material. The eldest of the men – accused of possessing the material – is Denis Turner, 67, a devoted ”cat fancier” from St Helens Park near Campbelltown.
Edward Chegwidden, 39, from Oakhurst, was also charged, and Christopher Saunders, 36, from Rushcutters Bay, faces three charges, including possessing child abuse material and using an internet service to access it and make it available.
The police, using undercover agents to infiltrate the global file-sharing network, also charged three men in Victoria, including a registered sex offender.
The others were Anthony Gerbes, 28, from Caboolture in Queensland, and a self-proclaimed nudist from South Australia, who cannot be named. He was granted conditional bail yesterday.
The 11 men work in information technology, hospitality, teaching and security. Between them they face at least 25 charges, carrying sentences of 10 years’ jail to life imprisonment. The police will allege the abuse material includes images of children as young as four.
”It’s common knowledge that police use covert assets,” said Commander Grant Edwards, the head of the federal police’s high-tech investigations unit. ”You never know who you’re talking to on the other end.”
He said sharing of child abuse images and videos over the internet operated in a similar way to illegal music downloading sites. ”You would go in there, strike up a relationship,” he said. But it required the two users to trust each other enough – perhaps through third-party introductions – to share illegal images.
The investigation, the first in Australia to focus on peer-to-peer networks, is part of an international effort to stamp out child abuse material online.