Pupils at Elite Sydney School could face criminal charges over offensive group chat

A group of students from Sydney’s elite Knox Grammar School are being investigated over allegations they shared videos depicting child abuse, rape and assault and engaged in misogynistic, racist and homophobic discussions in a closed online discussion group.

Parents have been told that specialist detectives from the NSW Police Force Child Abuse and Crimes Squad are investigating what has been described as ‘inappropriate images and… offensive comments in a private online chat room’.

Content leaked to the media

It was reported that the school had already finalized an internal investigation – suspending some students and expelling others – before the content was “leaked” to the media and referred to the police by a source other than the school by the after.

It was reported that the school carried out its own internal investigation and expelled several students before the messages were leaked to the media and referred to NSW Police.

Police said they are currently reviewing the material and working with the Electronic Safety Commission to have the offensive content removed from the internet and determine whether the students should face criminal charges.

“Racist, misogynistic and homophobic” content

The student group, called “Gang Gang”, was reportedly hosted on the end-to-end encrypted app Discord.

The school confirmed that some of the footage was taken “during school activities” and later doctored to produce offensive content.

The school further confirmed that some of the videos shared depicted child abuse, rape and physical assault.

Messages shared are meant to include:

‘Hitler has always remained in my heart… Heil Hitler’,

“The ‘pro-choice’ idiots think women’s rights are important…I only hate children and wish they died, take them away at the source”, and

“I’m a would-be pedophile maniac who rapes babies for a living.”

One of the students reportedly expressed disappointment at not being invited to a “rape party”.

In a public statement, the school described the positions as “contrary to Knox values ​​and culture”, adding that the students’ conduct does not “reflect a Knox education” – something that costs more than $30,000 a year. year.

Online Safety Act

Under the Online Safety Act (2021), offensive material falls under one of two categories, which are Class 1 and Class 2

Class 1 material includes material that depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with issues of sex, drug or addiction, crime, cruelty, gratuitous high-level violence, or revolting or heinous phenomena of a manner likely to offend.

Class 2 material generally includes material considered inappropriate for the general public, material which might otherwise be restricted to persons over the age of 18.

Under the law, which came into effect earlier this year, the Electronic Security Commissioner has sweeping powers to ensure platforms meet their reporting obligations and also remove content quickly if necessary.

If the material is not removed, civil penalties may be imposed, including fines of up to $111,000 for individuals and $555,000 for businesses – penalties apply to the person who posted the material. material as well as to the provider of the platform on which it appeared.

The law encompasses social media services, media sharing networks, discussion forums and consumer opinion discussion groups, including email, instant messaging services, text messages and cat.

This also applies to online games and online dating services, as well as websites, applications, social media, search engines, hosting services as well as internet service providers and other transportation services.

The Online Safety Program relies heavily on community members reporting prohibited content to the Electronic Safety Commission and/or the Australian Center for Combating Child Exploitation (ACCCE) run by the Australian Federal Police.

The Electronic Safety Commissioner has sweeping powers to order Internet hosts and service providers to remove offensive material and to sanction individuals and companies that engage in prohibited behavior.

Potential criminal charges

It remains to be determined whether the students will face criminal charges for their actions.

If the allegations are indeed true, they may amount to producing, possessing or disseminating child pornography, which is an offense under Section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) punishable by up to 10 years in prison .

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. You have owned, broadcast or produced material, and
  2. The material was child pornography

“Possession” includes physical custody or control of material or data.

“Distribution” includes:

  1. send, provide, display, transmit or communicate to others,
  2. make available for access by another, and
  3. enter into an agreement or arrangement to do so.

The “Production” includes:

  1. film, photograph, print or otherwise make,
  2. alter or manipulate, and
  3. enter into an agreement or arrangement to do so.

“Child abuse material” is material that depicts or describes in a way that reasonable people would consider offensive:

  1. The private parts of a person who is, appears to be, or is believed to be a child, or
  2. A person who is, appears to be, or is assumed to be a child:

As a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or engaged or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or in the presence of another person who is engaged or appears to be engaged in a sexual pose or activity sexual.

To determine whether content is offensive to a reasonable person, the following should be considered:

  • the standards of morality, decency and propriety accepted by reasonable adults,
  • the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the material,
  • the journalistic merit (if any) of the material, and
  • the general character of the material.

“Private parts” are defined as “the genital or anal area, bare or covered by underwear, or the breasts of a woman, or a transgender or intersex person who identifies as a woman, whether the breasts are developed or not.

For the purposes of the offence, a “child” is a person under the age of 16.

The defenses to the prosecution include the following cases:

  1. You did not know and could not reasonably have known that you owned, distributed or produced it,
  2. Your conduct has benefited the public through the administration or administration of law, or the administration of justice, and has not extended beyond that,
  3. The material has been classified for publication,
  4. The use of the material has been approved by the Attorney General for research, and
  5. The material represents you and would not be child pornography without your likeness,

An additional defense against possession of child pornography is if you received it unsolicited and took reasonable steps to dispose of it after becoming aware of its nature.

An exception to the offense is when:

  1. The possession of the material occurred when you were under 18, and
  2. A reasonable person would consider possession acceptable given:
  • The nature and content of the material
  • The circumstances in which you came to own it
  • The age, vulnerability and situation of the child depicted
  • Your age, vulnerability and situation, and
  • The relationship between you and the depicted child

Not the first time

This is certainly not the first time that the reputation of Knox Grammar School has been called into question.

In 2015, a report on Knox High School, produced following hearings by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which examined 30 years of allegations of alleged sexual abuse by eight teachers, concluded that the school had covered up the abuse.

He determined that then-headmaster Ian Paterson “did not prioritize the welfare of the boys over the reputation of the school”.

And in 2021, a former student filed a civil suit against the school, alleging he became disabled after other students knocked a locker off him.

The young man alleges that the incident caused him a number of significant injuries, including a brain haemorrhage, concussions and mild head trauma, as well as spinal injuries and eye damage.

The former student also alleged that the school failed to provide adequate first aid.