1. Our client was in Australia on a 457 visa and was a hard working husband and new father.
2. Our client went through a period of extreme stress, both financial and familial. His temporarily separated from his wife and she went overseas with the baby.
3. With no friends in Australia, and the time difference making it difficult for him to speak to his friends and no money to afford counselling, our client went into chat rooms online to let off steam. He made friends with trollers and had some conversations that were sexual.
4. Having regularly chatted online since he was approximately 18 years old, our client believed that most people on chatrooms lied about their true identity. His chatting experience led him to look for some key things to determine if the person was telling the truth. For example, photos that had been edited by photo editing software or who sent photographs where the properties showed the photo was taken in a place they said they didn’t live or a was dated years ago, he found usually was untruthful about their age and were fraudulent.
5. Our client checked the properties of photos that were sent to him to determine whether the person he was chatting to was genuine and telling the truth about their age and other details.
6. He started speaking to one person in particular that he was sure was trolling him by pretending to be a 13 year old girl. They engaged in sexual conversations.
7. Our client asked for her photo and checked the properties of the photo. He found that the photographs dated back to 2006, which would have meant that the person he was chatting to was over 18 years of age at the time he was chatting to them. He also believed the photographs were edited by photo editing software and as a child of 13 years, in his opinion would not be sophisticated enough to use photo editing software, the person he was chatting to had to be an adult.
8. He had no prior offences.
9. Despite our submissions with respect to our client’s genuine belief the person was chatting to was over 18 years of age and evidence of dates of the photographs noted in the properties, the DPP refused to drop the charges, however, advised us they would consider a lesser charge.
10. Our client insisted he was innocent because he had a genuine belief that the person he was chatting to was over 18 years of age and the matter proceeded to trial with a jury.
11. The jury came back within 2 – 3 hours with a NOT GUILTY verdict.