Two distraught mothers have relayed to a court the “traumatic and chilling” account of how their young daughters were captured on camera by an Alice Springs delivery driver, which he added to a collection of “serious” child abuse material he had downloaded, including four pictures in a category officially defined as involving sex between children or between children and adults.
Damien Snoad, 51, will spend four months in prison for his crime after he pleaded guilty in the NT Supreme Court in Darwin to two offences relating to child abuse material, with a further two years to be served in the community. He is also banned from owning a compute or phone with internet capabilities without the prior permission of his parole officer, and has to undertake assessment, counselling and treatment directed by his parole officer.
A police investigation found 484 video and image files. Of those, 213, were in category one defined by the Australian National Victim Image Library scheme, which involves nudity or sexually suggestive posing, but no sexual activity. One was in category two, involving non-penetrative sex between children or solo masturbation by children. One was in category three involving non-penetrative sex between adults and children. Six were in category four involving sex between children or between children and adults. And 236 were rated a category six, involving animated or virtual depictions of child engaged in sex poses or activities.
The court heard police first became aware of the predatory activity in September 2017, following a complaint alleging Snoad had been secretly filming adult female tenants in the bathroom of his house.
While the complaint was never substantiated, NT Police ultimately searched his Alice Springs residence.
The investigation revealed between January 2016 and September 2017, Snoad used his “trusted” position as a grocery delivery driver to take video recordings of an unknown amount of Alice Springs children.
The court heard the recordings were captured in a “clandestine fashion” which breached Snoad’s “trusted position as a delivery driver”.
Snoad’s youngest victim was just seven years old at the time of the recording, the court heard. Chief Justice Grant said there were two photos of her topless and in underpants.
His other victim, known as the principal victim, was aged between eight and 10 and he allowed her and one sisters who was about a year younger, into the back of the delivery truck to get groceries out.
“While they were doing so, you continued to record them. You positioned the recording device upwards to catch footage of their abdominal and genital region,” Chief Justice Grant said.
“The principal victim was wearing loose fitting shorts and no underwear at the time.
“You then took the footage back to your residence and created two video files. From those files, you created a number of still images of the principal victim’s vagina.”
In handing down his sentence, Supreme Court chief justice Michael Grant read aloud victim impact statements written by the mothers, those statements described ongoing shock and violation.
“Every time the mother now sees a delivery truck, she is reminded of what happened to her children,” Chief Justice Grant said.
“It has disrupted the life of the family. The mother was unable to continue with her studies because of the stress and, understandably, could not let the children out of her sight.
“She rightly felt that her children should have been safe in their own home and that you had taken advantage of their innocent and trusting natures.
“You had, in a sense, groomed them because you engaged with them regularly and encouraged them to come out and help you unload the groceries.”
The second victim impact statement described the mother’s feeling of having failed to protect her daughter and the panic that she continues to experience as a result of Snoad’s actions.
“She feels violated that you came into their house and you took advantage of her child that way,” Chief Justice Grant said.
“She has suffered a loss, or at least a diminution, of trust in people… and understandably experiences great worry at the idea of sleepovers and birthday parties. She no longer allows the child to go to the public swimming pool.
“She has become controlling in relation to what her child can and cannot do. This experience has also had a generally negative impact on her relationship with both her husband and her children.”
The court heard Snoad had no relevant criminal history, but prior convictions were documented, including multiple counts of false and misleading statements in social security claims recorded in South Australia in 1985, and a cannabis conviction in 2017.
Chief Justice Grant detailed “particularly harsh treatment at school due to [Snoad’s] learning difficulties” and a diagnosis of Klinefelter’s Syndrome in his early 20s, which his a chromosomal abnormality which causes sterility and may be associated with mild physical and cognitive problems.
The court heard Chief Justice Grant did not accept Snoad’s claim during an assessment by a psychiatrist that the material in his possession was not child pornography, saying, “it would seem inconsistent with your conduct in taking videos and photographs of young children and then manipulating the videos to develop still images of the principal victim’s genitals”.
“As the psychiatrist observed in his report, the nature of the activity suggests on its face, a likelihood that you find those images in someway attractive, notwithstanding you have maintained an adult relationship over the past dozen or so years.
“The psychiatrist’s conclusion in that respect is that your conduct is most likely associated with your social skills deficits, rather than a deviant arousal to children.
“Again, I find that conclusion difficult to reconcile with your possession of other child abuse material, as well as the manipulation of these images.
“Whatever the root cause might be, the psychiatrist says that you maintained an attitude of minimisation and denial which is common amongst sexual offenders.
“The psychiatrist also says that you are functioning in the low-average to borderline range of intellect.”
Chief Justice Grant said the files found by police were of a “most depraved kind”, but added there was no evidence the material was for the purpose of sale or further distribution.
“But the harm caused by offenders like you, Mr Snoad, is that young people, young children, are used by the manufacturers of child pornography to satisfy the demand which people like you create,” Chief Justice Grant said.
“In assessing the gravity of your offending and the appropriate sentence, I must necessarily take into account the fact that children have been harmed to produce the material found in your possession.
“Those children are vulnerable and in no position to protect themselves.
“You downloaded and kept that material despite the fact that you must necessarily have known each and every time you have viewed an image or a video that the children depicted in them were being subjected to exploitation and abuse.”