Australian police target online paedophile network with links in New Zealand

An investigation into a major online paedophile network has found 16 children from one NSW Mid-North Coast childcare centre were allegedly sexually abused by a former worker.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the operation was one of Australia's most significant efforts targeting child exploitation.

Investigators identified links through the online forums to alleged child sex offenders residing in Europe, Asia, United States and Canada, and New Zealand, with 146 international referrals made as a result of this investigation, AFP said.

The AFP and NSW Police arrested 14 men, who are facing a total of 828 charges for child abuse offences, and are accused of producing and sharing child abuse material to a wide-reaching online network in Australia and overseas.

Investigations began in February after the arrest of 30-year-old man Justin Radford from Central Coast north of Sydney, who was charged with 89 offences including sexual touching of a victim under 10, and producing and disseminating child abuse material.

In June, 27-year-old Timothy Doyle and his 22-year-old partner Steven Garrad were arrested in the town of Kendall and charged with hundreds of offences.

Doyle has been charged with 303 offences relating to the abuse of 30 children, with allegations including sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and the production of child abuse material.

"Police will allege the man used his position as a childcare worker, and other deceptive means in his personal life, to gain access to 30 children," the AFP said in a statement.

"The man's partner, a 22-year-old man, also allegedly abused children his partner accessed through deceptive means in his personal life."

It is believed the childcare centre is not in the town of Kendall and parents of all victims have been notified.

A total 46 children are alleged to have been abused in connection with the ring, with ages ranging between 16 months and 15 years.

Arrests have also been made in Queensland and WA and three men have also been arrested in the US as a result of the operation.

The Australian men arrested were aged 20 to 48 and include volunteer soccer coach Grant Harden, from St Clair in Sydney's west, a disability support worker, an electrician and a chef.

Earlier this month, 27-year-old Jake Caldwell was arrested at Seaforth in Sydney's north and charged with four offences related to possessing and accessing child abuse material.

AFP Assistant Commissioner, Eastern Command, Justine Gough described the ring as "a complex and inter-related web of criminality".

"Search warrants and evidence gathering at every arrest have led to the unravelling of a criminal network, each one leading to the discovery of alleged offenders and more children to be saved from ongoing abuse," she said.

Assistant Commissioner Gough said investigators "discovered social media forums where child offenders were producing, sharing and trading aberrant child abuse material with their criminal peers".

The investigation began after the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) in February received a report from the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children about an online user allegedly uploading child abuse material.