An Australian man who defaced tribute pages to two murdered children on Facebook was Friday denied bail.
Bradley Paul Hampson, 29, was been charged with plastering child pornography over pages dedicated to a 12-year-old schoolyard stabbing victim and an eight-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered.
AdvertisementProsecutor Fiona Pedersen said Hampson had morbid fantasies of dead children, and when police raided his house they found a file on his computer containing outraged comments elicited by his February vandalism of the sites.
The court heard his address had been widely published by the media and death threats had been made by members of the public, while his only family and friends lived in the town where the eight-year-old was killed.
A Brisbane magistrate ruled that he would be safer in prison, and refused him bail until a suitable place could be found for him to live.
Hampson is guilty of what is called trolling. In Internet slang, trolling refers to the practice of posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.
Hampson is the first Australian to face court for such an activity.
Police laid five charges, including possessing and distributing child exploitation material. The maximum penalty is 10 years in jail.
"This particular investigation raised a lot of community concern," Detective Superintendent Peter Crawford said.
"Clearly the community felt the material that was posted was offensive.
"The Queensland police that have viewed the material were also of the view that this is particularly offensive material.
"What I would ask is that people take some responsibility to prevent these types of things happening by making sure they're responsible and quickly deleting inappropriate material.
"I'm referring to people that actually administer the sites themselves. People that set these tribute pages have the capacity to remove material which they deem to be inappropriate or unsuitable."
Elliot Fletcher, 12, died after being stabbed at St Patrick's College in Brisbane and Trinity Bates died after being abducted from her home in Bundaberg.
The Facebook pages established to honour them were apparently defaced within hours.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) are negotiating with Facebook over concerns the company took too long to act on the defaced tribute pages.
Superintendent Crawford says many children are believed to have seen the pornography and Facebook could have removed it faster.
"The AFP are conducting some negotiations with Facebook at the moment and they're seeking our views as part of that negotiation," Superintendent Crawford said.
"I don't want to be diverting [Queensland child protection taskforce] Argos resources in the future to having to investigate trolling matters when they could be better deployed investigating sexual abuse of Queensland children."
But Queensland Police are not just taking aim at Facebook.
Superintendent Crawford acknowledges many tribute sites are established by children and he reiterated a message he says police have been at pains to deliver in recent years.
"The internet is not always as safe a place as you'd imagine. The need for parents to be able to work with their kids to keep them safe online is really important," he said.
"We can go out and arrest as many people as you like in relation to offending that's occurring against children on the internet. But the reality is prevention is going to be far better than a cure."
Facebook has released a statement saying it "was appalled when the pages were defaced and it congratulates the Australian police on their efforts to bring the offenders to justice".
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