Interview led to child predator’s downfall

TWO years ago, self-styled teen advocate William "Billy" Russell told the Sunday Mail he wanted to protect children from online predators.

"Within minutes I had teenagers as young as 13 looking for nude pictures of me … they were very persistent, pressuring me," he claimed.

"A 15-year-old boy asked me to meet up and have sex, just like that … his profile was so open I could have contacted his mum.

"I seriously thought about doing that but I ended up telling him about all the dangers of what he was doing."

William Russell, centre, leaves the Adelaide District Court in October with supporters after an earlier court appearance. Picture: AAP / Kelly Barnes
William Russell, centre, leaves the Adelaide District Court in October with supporters after an earlier court appearance. Picture: AAP / Kelly Barnes

On Wednesday, the District Court said that article led SA Police straight to Russell's door - where they found proof he, not the children, had been the one seeking illicit photos and sex.

Chief Judge Michael Evans said that criminal behaviour, together with Russell's lack of empathy for his victims, meant the only appropriate penalty was an immediate jail term.

"Your naivety and immaturity is shown, in part, by what you said in the newspaper article, which led to police searching your electronic devices," he said.

"You satisfy the diagnosis for paedophilia … you are not a serious repeat offender, but you have committed a serious sexual offence.

"I cannot suspend your sentence nor order you serve it on home detention."

In 2016, Russell, 24, of Findon, was nominated for Youth South Australian of the Year for his online "Teen Support Network".

A one-time nominee for Youth South Australian on the Year, William Russell walks into District Court during an earlier appearance. Picture: AAP / Morgan Sette
A one-time nominee for Youth South Australian on the Year, William Russell walks into District Court during an earlier appearance. Picture: AAP / Morgan Sette

A year later, he gave a Sunday Mail interview in which he claimed he was warning children about the dangers of online sex predators.

Russell never gave such warnings, however, and was committing multiple sex grooming and child exploitation using the Snapchat and KIK Messenger apps.

He pleaded guilty to those crimes in August this year, conceding his planned sex encounters did not go ahead because he "got cold feet".

On Wednesday, Chief Judge Evans said that, in addition to his grooming attempts, Russell had been in possession of 51 child exploitation material files.

Russell's computers, he said, were both encrypted and capable of accessing the dark web.

He noted Russell's prior good character and childhood difficulties, including overcoming physical and intellectual disabilities, bullying and parental problems.

"I accept you are embarrassed and ashamed by your offending, and that you will find imprisonment very difficult," he said.

"Your prognosis to cease offending is fair … doctors believe you are motivated to rehabilitate.

"However you have poor insight into your offending and rationalise your behaviour.

"Doctors are of the opinion you would have clearly understood the wrongfulness of your actions … despite your disability, you know your behaviour was unacceptable."

Chief Judge Evans said Russell would benefit from a long period on parole, during which time he would be supervised both for his sake and that of the community.

He jailed him for 2 1/2 years, with a 12-month non-parole period.



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