MANILA – A Philippine court has sentenced an Australian man to life imprisonment after finding him guilty on human trafficking and child pornography charges.
Drew Frederick Shobbrook listened quietly as the verdict was read in a court in Cebu city on Tuesday. Filipina Leslie Ann Fernandez, a co-accused in the case who was also sentenced to life, cried next to Shobbrook.
Both were arrested during a 2013 operation in which 15 girls were rescued by Philippine authorities.
According to the International Justice Mission, a global organization that partners with local authorities to fight human trafficking and child sexual abuse, the accused used the girls for pornographic images and videos that he then distributed online.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 assisted by the International Justice Mission (IJM), last April 17, 2013. IJM has repeatedly assisted local authorities in tracking down and rescuing victims of human trafficking.
In this case, NBI 7 agents, led by supervising agent Rey Villordon, rescued 15 girls, including some who were believed to be minors.
The NBI 7 said that Shobbrook employed people to hire girls who are between 14 and 17 years old. Fernandez assisted Shobbrook in recruiting minor girls.
Four former female employees also went to the NBI 7 to complain about Shobbrook’s alleged online pornography site.
Replying to the charges, Shobbrook denied prostituting the victims and said that two of them, whom he claimed to be his former girlfriends, conspired to have him arrested.
In their affidavit, the women said that the Australian lured minor girls to work for him in his house in exchange for cash, goods, and educational support.
These girls would either live with him or would visit him regularly in one of Shobbrook’s three apartments in Cebu City.
Shobbrook used these girls for sex and created child pornographic images and videos with them that he then distributed online. The girls also testified that he offered them to other foreigners for sex.
Judge Moneva also convicted Shobbrook of possession of child pornography and sentenced him to 20 years in jail and a fine of P1 million for that case.
Shobbrook was ordered to pay the victims P500,000, plus P100,000 as exemplary damages.
Lawyer John Tanagho, IJM Cebu field office director, lauded the NBI and the prosecution and judicial officials involved in this case for “administering justice with the utmost objectivity and integrity.”
“Today’s convictions send a strong message that if you sexually abuse and exploit Filipino children online and create child pornography, you will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison,” said Tanagho.
Source; Associated Press, Philippine Star