A retired public servant has been sentenced to up to 16 years in jail for sexually exploiting children in the Philippines, with police saying his victims will never get back their “stolen childhoods”.
- Ian Schapel paid girls in the Philippines to perform sexual acts for him online
- He was arrested after a routine search of his devices when he came back from overseas
- His sentences on separate charges total 16 years
WARNING: This story contains content that readers may find upsetting.
Ian Ralph Schapel, 68, spent 13 years between 2007 and 2020 committing sexual offenses online, often while traveling in countries including America, Singapore and Vietnam.
He had pleaded guilty to 50 offences, including 41 counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child outside of Australia, using a carriage service to access child exploitation material and possessing child exploitation material.
On 74 occasions he engaged in sexual activity with at least 13 children in the Philippines over online platforms including Skype and WhatsApp.
The female victims were aged between three and nine.
Schapel also had more than 52,000 images and videos of child exploitation material in his possession.
Commonwealth prosecutor Krista Breckweg had told the court earlier that he would threaten facilitators or parents of his victims that if they did not meet his requests they would starve.
Australian Federal Police Detective Inspector Rodger Braun said five alleged abuse facilitators were arrested in the Philippines and 15 victims were rescued.
“We cannot give these children back their stolen childhoods, however we hope a conviction of this Adelaide man provides reassurance that the AFP and partner agencies will never stop our fight to bring predators to justice and protect children,” he said.
“Child sex offenders are not restricted by national or international borders, but neither are law enforcement agencies.
“We are united in our commitment to keep children safe.
“I’d also like to issue a warning to any individual who would seek to prey on children: the AFP and its partners will come for you no matter when the abuse occurred and no matter where you are in the world, there is nowhere for you to hide.”
‘Lonely man’ with mental health conditions
District Court Judge Paul Cuthbertson outlined payments for many of the sexual acts for sums of less than $40 on each occasion.
In sentencing, he took into account several factors, including his lonely life, being bullied at school and never being married or in long relationships with women.
There were also diagnoses of several mental health conditions, including schizoid personality disorder, hoarding disorder and adjustment disorder with depression.
But that did not lessen the seriousness of the charges, Judge Cuthbertson said.
“He must have known the consequences of his offending, the seriousness involved and he must have been aware that the financial position of those people would have driven parents and carers to proffer their children as a means to alleviate their economic plight,” he said.
Material found during routine search
Schapel had flown back into Melbourne in February 2020 from an overseas trip when Australian Border Force officers conducted a routine search of his electronic devices and found child abuse material on his iPhone and iPads.
Released on bail, he went home to Adelaide, but was met at his home by officers from the SA Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team, who found numerous child abuse material inside the property.
A 17-year sentence for Commonwealth offenses was reduced due to his early guilty plea and assistance to authorities. He will now serve 15 years and three months, with a non-parole period of 10 years.
He received another nine-month sentence on state charges, bringing the total to 16 years.
Schapel has been in custody since April 2020.