Magistrate Karen Fryar, of the ACT Magistrates Court, denied a Canberra man’s bail application. Officers arrested the man—Mackenzie William Sutton, 36—in early December for involvement in a child pornography CP scandal. Sutton downloaded, in November alone, 4,500 files that prosecutors believe consisted entirely of CP. When officers arrested Sutton, they discovered Tor and other “darknet tools.” Both, the prosecution argued, would make evidence recovery nearly impossible if Sutton used them to erase any CP stored on the darknet.
ABC reported that police found nearly 4,500 files during the December 2 raid of the man’s home. The 36-year-old home in Nicholls, north of Canberra, held several unsearched electronic devices. Prosecutors mentioned two USB drives that likely contained additional child pornography. They pointed out, to the court, that Sutton collected images and videos of girls three-years-old and nine-years-old.
Despite all evidence, the accused voiced his complete innocence. Court documents revealed that Sutton claimed the police singled him out because he was a Trump supporter. Additionally, Sutton claimed not to know where the media came from; he said he never downloaded or obtained the explicit content. He made it clear that the CP was a result of his ongoing support for the president-elect Donald Trump.
Child Pornography Charges:
The prosecution charged Sutton with one count of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offense (Criminal Code: s.474.17). Specifically, according to Canberra Times, he used a carriage service “for child pornography material.” Furthermore, he used a carriage service to “access, possess, distribute, produce, advertise or make available child pornography or child abuse material,” (ACORN.gov: Online Child Sexual Abuse Material).
Constable Mike Harris, the chief detective on the case, explained the situation to the court. He called the situation an “unusual phenomenon.” According to the investigative data thus far, Sutton downloaded more than 4,000 child pornography files in a single month. Investigators made no mention of evidence found before November—when the suspect downloaded all 4,000-4,500 files. Additionally, the prosecution never explicitly said that Sutton downloaded illegal content before the month of November.
Constable Harris believes the suspect stored data in locations currently unavailable to investigators. Specifically, he said, the darknet. The presence of darknet tools and Tor on the suspect’s computer indicate that a substantial level of skill—skill that could drastically hinder the investigation.
Sutton’s bail application set standards for the law to enforce; it explicitly restricted him from accessing any electronic device. Constable Harris responded, “I find it difficult to be confident that he would not access the internet from any other device he picks up,” (Daily Mail).
Harris continued, “I am concerned [more material] is being stored in a deepweb account or facility. The moment he gets on the internet, he [would] be able to delete it. I find it difficult to be confident that he would not access the internet from any other device he picks up,” (ABC AU).
Magistrate Karen Fryar agreed. She, too, believed it would be nearly impossible to ensure that Sutton never touched the internet. Furthermore, Fryar said, he could be a risk to the public if released. She denied bail and ordered Sutton to remain in custody until his December 20 hearing.
- Australia has routinely seen many darknet-related arrests. One of which was that of the recently arrested ex-AFP officer who sold police ID badges on Alphabay.