A 51-year-old man has told a court he was not aware he was in possession of almost 40,000 child abuse images and videos, despite pleading guilty to the offence.
Darren Robert Lawrence was caught out with the illicit material after Google became aware he had sent an email reportedly containing two child abuse images on August 13, 2018, and was reported to the Australian Federal Police.
It took until June 8 this year for police to locate Lawrence at a rural property at Redbank where he lived in a converted bus. Police discovered three electronic devices, two cannabis plants, a plastic bag containing cannabis, a zip-lock bag containing a white powder substance and smoking glass units.
On June 25, the images and videos located on Lawrence's mobile phone and laptop computer were categorised to determine if they contained child abuse material. His laptop computer contained 38,974 images and videos with 37,139 of that material depicting girls aged between eight and 15 posing naked or in underwear.
There was 158 images of children aged between three and 12 that fell into the category of solo masturbation, kissing and sexual acts between children.
Lawrence had some images depicting sadism and bondage, while one image fell into the category of penetrative sex. He had 1629 images and three videos which was categorised as non-illegal material that related to child exploitation.
When interviewed at the Avoca Police Station, Lawrence told officers he had no idea he had uploaded any child abuse material in the email. He stated he was into nudity and had pictures of naked females.
Lawrence was charged with six offences, including possessing child abuse material, possessing and using methamphetamine and cannabis, and cultivating cannabis.
He pleaded guilty to the charges at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on Thursday but Lawrence, representing himself, said: "It certainly shocked me to hear 38,000".
Magistrate Ron Saines said he accepted Lawrence told police he had no idea he had uploaded the child abuse images in an email, but said Lawrence's comment he was not aware of the material on his devices was not consistent with his plea of guilty.
"There is no evidence of anyone else putting it there," Mr Saines said. "This is a large quantity of illicit material and it is material that can only become into existence due to the exploitation of children. They are an extraordinarily young age."
The magistrate said the seriousness of possessing child abuse material was reflected in the maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.
Lawrence was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order, which includes appropriate programs. He was fined $3927.40, which includes costs, and placed on the sex offenders' register for eight years. Mr Saines took into account Lawrence's guilty plea at the first mention of the matter, his co-operation with police, no relevant prior convictions and no evidence of him sharing the material.
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