An Australian man wanted police and school officials to act after he found out his teenage stepdaughter and her boyfriend were sharing sexually explicit texts and photos, so he saved them onto his computer and then showed them to the cops. Instead of going after the boyfriend or talking to the teen girl, cops instead arrested the stepdad – for possession of child pornography.
As The Sydney Morning Herald reported, 57-year-old Ashan Ortell was sentenced last week to 12 months’ probation and will have to register as a sex offender in a case that even the judge admits was “very unusual.”
In 2013, Ortell, who was looking after his estranged wife’s daughter as well as his own three children, became aware that the then-15-year-old girl was sending sexually explicit texts – including nude photos of herself – to a boyfriend, whose name and age have not been released. Alarmed, Ortell confiscated the teen’s cell phone and showed it to officials at her school, according to The Herald Sun. How the school responded isn’t clear, but he apparently wasn’t satisfied and so he decided to take the matter to the police.
Before returning the phone to his stepdaughter, Ortell copied all of the images and the texts onto his computer and a couple of USB memory sticks. He told police he had the pictures – thinking they would launch a criminal investigation. Instead, police warned him that by having those pictures in his possession, he was technically in violation of Australia’s child pornography laws. They told him to get rid of them.
He did not, and that was a mistake, he says.
“I didn’t even understand it fell under child pornography. I also made a copy for the school and the police. The police then interviewed me and my step daughter separately but said it appeared to be consensual. No one told me that this is child pornography so delete it. My solicitor made the point ‘why would he go to the police if he had anything to hide?'”
Some time later, police showed up and raided his home, seizing his computers, memory drives, and other evidence. They found 18 nude photos of Ortell’s teenage stepdaughter, and he was charged with possession of child pornography.
Had he been given the maximum possible sentence, Ortell could have been facing as much as five years in prison under Australia’s child pornography laws. However, Judge Jane Patrick determined that Ortell’s crime was “at the lowest end” of the definition of this crime, and also noted that Ortell didn’t keep the images for sexual gratification.
“That is not the case in your situation. You kept the images, I am satisfied, because you were very concerned about what had been going on and foolishly decided that this was the way to deal with it.”
She also noted that his heart was in the right place, even though his actions were outside the letter of the law.
“There is no suggestion of any exploitation of them by anybody. You made no attempt to conceal the images. In fact you were so concerned that you contacted the authorities about the images.”
Instead of getting the maximum five years, Ortell was instead sentenced to 12 months’ probation (a “good behavior bond,” as it’s called in Australia). During that time he will not be allowed to be around children, will have to keep authorities aware of his whereabouts, and will have to tell his probation officer all of his computer passwords. He will also have to register as a sex offender, but he can be removed from the sex offender registry after eight years.
[Feature Image by nito/Shutterstock]