Child sex sting in Armidale: Police arrest man in car park on grooming charges

UNDER ARREST: Police swooped on the 34-year-old Armidale man in a local carpark on Tuesday as part of the undercover operation. Photo: NSW Police

UNDER ARREST: Police swooped on the 34-year-old Armidale man in a local carpark on Tuesday as part of the undercover operation. Photo: NSW Police

AN UNDERCOVER sting has culminated in the arrest of an Armidale man accused of grooming a young girl for sex.

Detectives from the Sex Crime Squad’s Child Exploitation Internet Unit surrounded the 34-year-old man in the car park of an Armidale family restaurant on Tuesday where they allege he was about to meet a young girl.

But his plans came to a halt when police revealed to the man they had been posing as a 13-year-old girl online.

“The person arrested was [allegedly] corresponding with what he believed to be a 13-year-old child; fortunately in this case, police were assuming that identity,” Detective Sergeant Richard Long told The Leader.

“Detectives allege he was sexually explicit and made inappropriate comments.

“His intention in his mind was to meet a 13-year-old girl for sexual activity.”

The State Crime Command-run operation was a complex one, with local detectives also backing up the work on the case.

“Had it been a real child, we would have grave fears for what might have taken place,” Detective Sergeant Long said.

“A fair bit of covert stuff takes place from the team over the period that it spans.

“Quite a bit of planning is involved, and the fact it is in Armidale requires us to travel, too.” 

Detective Sergeant Long said officers received the tipoff from the United States’ National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in January and launched an investigation almost straight away.

“The information comes through sources in the US, so obviously they communicated with us in relation to the sexual assaulting of children from the ages of three through to 12 years old,” Detective Sergeant Long said.

“And then that information was sent back to us and the investigation took place.”

The charge will be prosecuted in court by the Commonwealth DPP and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years behind bars.

Under the new bail laws, the man was granted strict bail with conditions that are designed to prevent him from accessing the internet.

“Conditions to do with situations that would place him in contact with children are absolutely paramount,” Detective Sergeant Long said.

“The conditions are strict on his behaviour and hopefully enough to protect the community.”

Following the arrest, detectives raided the man’s Armidale home where they seized computers, cannabis, a set of nunchakus and electronic storage devices.

Detective Sergeant Long said police would now forensically examine the hardware to determine if “there is any evidence of other offending against other children”.

The man is facing three charges relating to using a carriage service to procure persons under 16 years old, possessing a prohibited drug and possessing a prohibited weapon.

He has been ordered to front court on August 11.