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Claims of porn ring in ACT jail

The Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Convicted paedophiles in Canberra's jail have allegedly set up a pornography ring, sharing electronic images of child sex abuse under the noses of prison guards.

A police investigation is under way into how the three prisoners, including two of the ACT's most dangerous child sex predators, were able to obtain and share material while serving sentences at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

It is even alleged that a child pornography website was hosted from within the prison before police swooped on the jail on Tuesday. The ACT Government's Justice and Community Safety directorate is set to come under intense scrutiny to explain how the alleged ring was allowed to develop.

Prisoners at the jail, which aims to be Australia's first human rights-compliant prison, have limited access to the internet and the system was shut down for 36 hours in the wake of the police raid.

Fairfax Media has established that digital TV set-top boxes, legitimately obtained with the knowledge of authorities, personal video recorders and USB portable hard drives were allegedly used to store and distribute the material.

Sources say the prison's intelligence unit began passing information to corrections authorities several months ago, but it is unclear what led to the delay in calling in police. ACT Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury said on Thursday that he had no knowledge of intelligence reports.

Central to the alleged plot was a laptop computer which a fourth prisoner, since released, had permission to bring into the jail despite the misgivings of some guards.

USB drives, which look like cigarette lighters in prison X-ray security screening images, are relatively easy to smuggle into jail and plug into ports on the set-top boxes.

The technical expertise is believed to have been developed and shared by an offender, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who served four years of a nine-year sentence for what a judge described as "premeditated and predatory" rapes of a 10-year-old boy.

The paedophile, an IT expert, was deported to South Africa after serving his four-year non-parole period and being found to have been of good behaviour while in jail.

But before his release he was allowed to have a laptop computer which allegedly led to the development of the child porn ring.

Another man suspected to be involved, Aaron James Holliday, is serving a 16-year sentence for a string of offences against young boys. He has been described as a computer expert.

Holliday was alleged by police to have developed an amateurish plot while in jail to silence one of his victims, a 15-year-old boy, by having the youth murdered.

Another of the suspects, whose name is also suppressed by the courts, is serving 10 years for

offences including abusing his one-year-old son and sharing footage of the acts with other online offenders.

He was also convicted of possessing 23,549 images and 1013 videos of child pornography, and of abusing the children of friends to produce some of the material. The third man is on remand awaiting trial for allegedly using a child for the production of pornography and other offences.

An ACT Policing spokesman said on Thursday detectives were examining devices seized in the raid.

"ACT Policing's criminal investigation detectives conducted a search at the Alexander Maconochie Centre last Tuesday, December 18, and seized several items suspected to contain child exploitation images.

"Detectives, with the assistance of ACT Corrective Services custodial officers, located and seized several PVRs (personal video recorders) and devices, including computers, which will be examined to assess if they contain child exploitation material.

"The contents of the computers and devices are being reviewed by AFP Digital Forensics."

Mr Rattenbury said that he would await the result of the police investigation before ordering internal inquiries or changing policies.

''Corrections are examining the situation and clearly, once we have the result of the police investigation, we'll look at what changes need to be made,' he said. 

with Louis Andrews

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