A Sydney school teacher has been charged with a number of child sex offences.
Police say Damien Scott Wanstall used the internet to arrange to pay a 14-year-old girl for sex.
The 47-year-old deputy principal of Kellyville High School was apprehended by detectives last week. This arrest was captured by news cameras.
He is currently refused bail and remains in custody.
Police launch undercover operation
NSW Police established Strike Force Trawler to capture online grooming behaviour. The operation has 14 officers who conduct covert online operations to find child sex offenders.
Police say Mr Wanstall placed a classified advertisement on the website ‘Locanto' seeking sex.
Unbeknownst to him, undercover detectives responded and began engaging in conversation with him via messages.
It is alleged that the deputy principal sent sexually explicit messages to them, under the belief that he was corresponding with a 14-year-old girl.
The messages are alleged to have described acts he wished to perform on the child.
In the course of the conversation, the 47-year-old is said to have made arrangements to meet the young girl in Westmead and offered to pay for sex.
On 7 December 2020, after the end of the school day at Kellyville High School, Damien Wanstall attended the pre-arranged location in Westmead at 4:30pm.
There he was met by detectives, arrested and taken to Granville Police Station where he was charged with child sex offences. Media were on hand to film his arrest.
Following his arrest, Police executed a search warrant at an address in Rouse Hill and seized a number of items including a laptop and an electronic storage device.
He is currently in police custody and his bail application lawyers are yet to make a release application on his behalf.
Kellyville High School Deputy Principal Charged With Child Sex Offences
The Kellyville High School website lists Mr Wanstall as a deputy principal responsible for students in years 10 and 12.
He is currently suspended from all duties.
Police say investigation ongoing
Acting Commander of the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad Chris Goddard told media outlets that Police were continuing their investigations into Mr Wanstall.
“We will be taking measures to work with the Department of Education and Training to make sure that all aspects are covered,” he said.
It is unclear whether there will be further child sex charges against the deputy principal.
Detective Acting Superintendent Goddard said Strike Force Trawler makes similar arrests at least a few times each week.
“These offenders come from all walks of life. We have professionals, we have businessmen, tradies, a whole gamut of offenders — there is no stereotypical person who engages online in this space,” he said.
“And what we need to do is get those messages out to our kids and make sure that they're not engaging with people online who they don't know — to make sure that they're not providing personal details and they're not making arrangements to meet people who really they don't have any idea who they are.”
Subsequent to his arrest, it was revealed that fellow teachers and parents made complaints about Damian Wanstall.
The complaints were made to Police Minister David Elliott at least a year prior to his arrest.
In response, Mr Elliott – who is the local member of parliament for Baulkham Hills – wrote to Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. In his letter, Elliot relayed concerns raised by parents at the school.
Ms Mitchell passed on the matter to the NSW Department of Education who conducted follow-up interviews.
NSW Police also confirmed an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers was also made in 2018 about the deputy principal.
A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said the complaint was investigated, but there was “insufficient evidence to take the matter further”.
“Allegations raised by staff in a 2019 letter from MP David Elliott were sent to the Department's Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate who followed each allegation up with staff,” a spokesperson said.
“The department acted on the referral which resulted in the principal's (Justina Barnier's) removal from duty and an ongoing investigation into the leadership of the school. There is currently a relieving principal at the school while further investigations take place.”
In light of the unsubstantiated allegations, Mr Wanstall continued in his role at Kellyville High School until his arrest.
The Education Department said it was “appalled” by the allegations and would work closely with police.
Relieving principal Mark Burnard wrote to parents following Mr Wanstall's arrest and confirmed that the deputy principal had been stood down effective immediately.
He also urged parents to contact police if their children had witnessed or been subjected to any “potential offences committed by this person”.
Child sex offence charges
Under Section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person who has custody and control of child abuse material, can be guilty of possessing child abuse material.
You can fight a child abuse material charge in two ways. Firstly, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt:
- you produced; OR
- you disseminated (spread); OR
- you possessed;
- ‘child abuse material'.
If any of these elements are not made out, then you can be found ‘not guilty'.
Secondly, you can rely on one of the defences to child abuse material charges:
- The prosecution cannot prove that you were aware, and it was not reasonable for you to be aware that you had the material
- You produced or disseminated the material for a reasonable and genuine public benefit purpose (eg. child protection, scientific, medical or legal purposes or law enforcement).
- Duress: You were forced to produce the material;
- Necessity: Your actions were necessary in the circumstances
- You took reasonable steps to get rid of the material as soon as you became aware that is was child abuse material
- The material is not child abuse material. We have expert paediatricians who can provide an opinion that the persons depicted in the images or videos are not children
Child abuse material is defined as material that depicts or describes in a way reasonable people would consider offensive:
- A person who appears to be a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or
- A person who appears to be a child involved in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- A person who appears to be a child in the presence of another person who is engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- The private parts of a person who appears to be a child which include the genital or anal area, or breasts of a female.
To determine if a reasonable person would consider something offensive, the court will assess:
- The standards of morality and decency generally accepted by reasonable adults,
- The artistic or education relevance of the material,
- The journalistic relevance of the material for a record or report of public interest, and
- The general character of the material
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.