Brisbane man jailed after seven children rescued from sexual exploitation in Philippines

Seven children have been rescued from sexual exploitation in the Philippines and a Brisbane man has been jailed for five years after a multinational police operation into an alleged international child abuse ring.

Neil Andrew Lyall Robards, 68, of Brisbane was sentenced in the district court on Thursday to five years in prison for a range of child abuse offences across international borders.

Australian federal police say Robards sent money to people in Thailand and the Philippines to facilitate the sexual abuse of children.

Two more people – a woman in the Philippines and a man in Britain – have been arrested over their alleged involvement in the same abuse network.

Robards was arrested at Brisbane airport in February 2020 as he returned to Australia: officers searched his laptop, phone and a USB drive that were found to contain child abuse images.

AFP officers worked with the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre to identify others suspected of being involved in the abuse.

In February Philippine police executed a search warrant on the southern island of Mindanao. Seven children, aged between three and 14, were rescued and one woman arrested. The woman is facing court in the Philippines.

After the raid a 51-year-old British national was arrested in the UK in September and electronic devices were seized from him.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling said the multinational operation showed the AFP’s cooperative efforts target those suspected of abusing children, wherever in the world they were.

“The AFP is working around-the-clock with our international and domestic law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who seek to do harm to children,” she said.

“Advances in technology now mean it takes multiple law enforcement agencies working together to break networks that share this material and to keep children safe. The AFP will never relinquish this duty.”

Since being established in 2019, the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre has undertaken 147 operations that have rescued 445 victims. Ninety-three suspects/facilitators have been charged and 18 offenders have been convicted.

Weekend embed

Australian-based investigations led to the arrest and charge of 40 suspects and the removal of 159 children from harm.

In Brisbane, Robards was charged with obtaining child abuse material outside Australia, causing a child to engage in sexual activity, preparing for or planning sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia, encouraging sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia, and using a carriage service to solicit child abuse material.

Sentencing Robards to five years in prison, the judge, Nathan Jarro, ordered a non-parole period of two years.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International


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