MANILA, Philippines (AP) — 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, 51, listened quietly as the verdict was read in a court in Cebu city on Tuesday. Footage shot by local broadcaster ABS-CBN of the proceedings showed Leslie Ann Fernandez, a Philippine national co-accused in the case, crying 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, Shobbrook used girls for pornographic images and videos that he then distributed online.
Three victims testified at the trial that girls were also offered to other foreigners for sexual exploitation, according to the organization.
Attorney John Tanagho of the IJM said the conviction sends a strong message to perpetrators of human trafficking for online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.
“Whether someone is a foreigner or a Filipino, if they sexually abuse Filipino children online or by creating child pornography, then they will be held accountable,” Tanagho said.
The IJM says there has been an increasing number of cases involving the online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines, with the crime spreading as more people gain access to the internet. More than 80 percent of victims rescued from online sexual exploitation are minors.