'Abuse' clip just MA15+

Chris Illingworth outside Maroochydore Courthouse.
Chris Illingworth outside Maroochydore Courthouse. Nicholas Falconer / Sunshine Coast Daily

CHRIS Illingworth faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty of child-abuse charges laid after he uploaded a “child-abuse” film from the internet.

However, Federal Government censors have classified the film as MA15+ (not suitable for under-15s).

Mr Illingworth, 61, a Maroochydore father of four, was charged late last year with accessing and uploading child-abuse material after publishing a video of a man swinging a baby on video-sharing site Live Leak.

On July 8 he was committed to a trial by jury in Maroochydore District Court. Despite having no involvement in the creation of the three-minute clip, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment for each of the two charges.

After responding to a complaint on July 9, the Australian Communications and Media Authority sent the clip to the Classification Board, which classified the content as MA15+.

According to the board's guidelines, as outlined in the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 1995, the impact of MA15+ material “should be no higher than strong” and violence and strong themes “should be justified by context”.

In a letter viewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, the ACMA stated: “As a result of the Classification Board's decision, the content is not prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992”.

Queensland Police declined to comment on the disparity between its definition of child abuse compared to the Classification Board's, but has previously said any Australians who viewed the clip could face a maximum of 10 years in jail.

The information on the Classification Board's decision was passed on to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and a spokesman said the case would be reviewed.

The video was one of hundreds Illingworth uploaded to the LiveLeak video sharing website as an administrator of the site.

In the film, believed to have originated in Russia, the baby is laughing and smiling and does not appear to sustain any injuries.

Mr Illingworth, a freelance journalist, told the Daily yesterday that the stress of the charges had affected his health and he felt like a “marked man”.

“I've been marked as a paedophile and it's just not fair,” he said.

During Mr Illingworth's committal hearing, defence barrister Michael Byrne QC said that under Commonwealth legislation, child-abuse material was defined as involving a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse in a way reasonable persons would find offensive.

Mr Illingworth's solicitor, Chelsea Emery, from Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers, has warned that if the case goes ahead, every Australian who uses the internet could be vulnerable to prosecution.

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