Ben MCormack ch 9 reporter and pedo buster busted himself

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A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack charged over child porn offences

  • Andrew Hornery
  • Nick Ralst

A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack has been charged after he allegedly sent child abuse material and engaged in explicit conversations about children with another man online.

McCormack, a long time on-air talent for the Nine Network program, was stopped on Driver Avenue at Moore Park by detectives from the Sex Crimes Squad at 7.30am on Thursday and taken to Redfern police station.

A Current Affair reporter arrested

The 42-year-old had been under investigation by the Sex Crime Squad’s child exploitation internet unit and has now been charged with using a carriage service for child pornography material.

“Police will allege in court the man was engaged in sexually explicit conversations about children with an adult male and discussed child pornography,” NSW Police said in a statement.

A search warrant was executed at McCormack’s home at Alexandria, in the city’s inner-south, and officers also raided the Willoughby office of A Current Affair, at the Nine Network studios in Sydney’s north, on Thursday morning.

Police seized computers, a mobile phone, and electronic storage devices.

McCormack was granted police bail and will appear at the Downing Centre Local Court on May 1.

He has retained the services of high-profile solicitor Sam Macedone, who regularly appears on A Current Affair, where he is often seen commenting on legal matters arising from neighborhood disputes or scam artists

 

The police investigation into McCormack followed a tip-off from the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation team – a joint agency task force that cracks down on crimes against children.

His arrest and charging was part of Strike Force Trawler, a police operation that is using undercover stings to catch alleged online predators.

The strike force has arrested almost one person per week this year, with many more cases passed to local police.

Those arrested have been diverse: from teenagers to 70-year-olds, school teachers, fathers, defense force members, priests, police academy students and aspiring politicians.

McCormack’s arrest was the lead item on Channel Nine’s 3pm news bulletin.

The network reported that he had been questioned but not charged, although charges might be laid on Thursday afternoon.

Nine’s news and current affairs director Darren Wick confirmed to staff that police officers had been at the network’s Willoughby offices “investigating matters relating to a staff member at A Current Affair”.

He stressed that the investigation “does not relate to the program or Nine”. He said the network was co-operating with the police.

“However, we are not in a position to comment any further as this is an ongoing investigation,” he said in a note to staff sent out following the raid.

As a reporter, McCormack had doggedly pursued child sex offenders on ACA over the years.

In 2014, he sat in court as former Hey Dad! television star Robert Hughes learned of his guilty verdict. He also phoned Hughes’ victim Sarah Monahan, who had told her story on A Current Affair, to tell her.

with Georgina Mitchell


A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack at centre of many media controversies

A Current Affair journalist Ben McCormack leaves Redfern police station yesterday. Picture: Adam Yip/The Manly Daily

THE veteran A Current Affair reporter at the centre of explosive child pornography allegations has been a magnet for controversy over his decades with Channel 9.

Police arrested and charged Ben McCormack, 42, yesterday for allegedly having sexually explicit conversations about children with another man, and discussing child pornography.

The scandal has rocked Channel 9, which was raided by police yesterday, but it is not the first time the reporter has made the headlines.

Nine Network reporter Ben McCormack is released from Redfern police station yesterday after being charged with sending child pornography material. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Nine Network reporter Ben McCormack is released from Redfern police station yesterday after being charged with sending child pornography material. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts Source:AAP

Throughout a 25-year career at the network, McCormack has broken major stories — some of which have been controversial and criticised.

He was the first journalist to confront Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes and grill him about child sex abuse allegations.

McCormack tracked Hughes down for ACA in Singapore in 2010 and questioned him about whether he did abuse children, including cast members of the popular Australian sitcom, which ran for eight seasons in the 1980s and ’90s.

Hey Dad! actor Robert Hughes is questioned by A Current Affair in Singapore. Picture: Channel 9

Hey Dad! actor Robert Hughes is questioned by A Current Affair in Singapore. Picture: Channel 9Source: Supplied

“I’m absolutely, totally shocked at the allegations and I deny, absolutely deny, everything,” Hughes told McCormack from his car.

A Current Affair’s reporting on the scandal helped lead to Hughes being sentenced to six years’ jail on 10 charges related to sexually abusing young girls.

While this was a genuine scoop, not all of McCormack’s reporting has been well received.

His bogus report on an “all-Asian mall” was widely condemned as racist and led to the station receiving a deluge of complaints.

Tracy Grimshaw presents Ben McCormack’s ‘All-Asian Mall’ story in 2012. The report turned out to be inaccurate.

Tracy Grimshaw presents Ben McCormack’s ‘All-Asian Mall’ story in 2012. The report turned out to be inaccurate.Source: Supplied

On November 7, 2012, McCormack reported that a shopping centre in Castle Hill, in Sydney’s northwest, had been taken over by Asian retailers and that Australian shopkeepers were being “kicked out”.

The media watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, found that the story was not only inaccurate, it was “likely to provoke intense dislike and serious contempt” of Asian people.

Stand-in ACA host Leila McKinnon was forced to give an on-air apology for the story.

A selfie from Ben McCormack’s Facebook. Picture: Facebook

A selfie from Ben McCormack’s Facebook. Picture: Facebook Source: Facebook

A Facebook photo of A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack. Picture: Facebook

A Facebook photo of A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack. Picture: Facebook 

McCormack’s reporting was slammed by public relations queen Roxy Jacenko last year when ACA ran with a story entitled “Resort Roxy”, which claimed she had checked into a $7000-a-night luxury retreat with her two children the same weekend her husband Oliver Curtis was sentenced to two years’ jail for insider trading.

“Just when we thought the soap opera was finally over, the Roxy and Oliver show goes on,” McCormack said in the report.

Ben McCormack on air for A Current Affair. Picture: Channel 9

Ben McCormack on air for A Current Affair. Picture: Channel 9Source: Supplied

“As her insider trader husband awaits classification within the jail system, within hours of his sentence Roxy has taken off. And you won’t believe where.”

So where was Roxy? According to the PR executive, she was hard at work in her office in Sydney.

“Really A Current Affair? … Looks like my bum and feet are firmly placed at my desk in my office. Perhaps stick to people’s fences encroaching on others’ boundaries!” she posted on Instagram.

McCormack’s journalism also made a splash in 2008 when he led a protest of disgruntled game show contestants to ambush David Koch and Melissa Doyle live on air.

ACA aired two segments in March of that year that claimed Channel 7’s short-lived National Bingo Night failed to pay participants on the show because the episodes in which they appeared were not aired.

McCormack and the angry contestants took the fight to Martin Place in Sydney and interrupted a live outside broadcast of Sunrise, yelling “Channel 7 doesn’t pay”.

Sunrise hosts Mel Doyle and David Koch are stunned as Ben McCormack leads a protest claiming that Channel 7 withheld money from contestants on its game show National Bingo Night.

Sunrise hosts Mel Doyle and David Koch are stunned as Ben McCormack leads a protest claiming that Channel 7 withheld money from contestants on its game show National Bingo Night.Source: Supplied

A security guard obstructed McCormack, while Mel and Kochie were rushed back into the studio.

ACA said contestants were duped out of $15,000 cash and a car, but a Seven spokesman dismissed the stunt as an “act of desperation to try and find an audience”.

McCormack also attracted controversy in 2011 for his part in a fierce ratings war with Channel 7 rival Today Tonight for the story behind a viral YouTube video showing a teenager body-slam a bully in an Aussie school ground.

A Current Affair journalist Ben McCormack on air. Picture: Channel 9

A Current Affair journalist Ben McCormack on air. Picture: Channel 9Source: YouTube

While both stations were criticised for opening their chequebooks to get the kids on camera, Media Watch actually praised McCormack’s interview with bullying victim Casey Heynes as “sensitive and moving”.

“It might even have done some good,” host Jonathan Holmes said at the time.

On his Twitter profile, McCormack describes himself as a “reporter, lifesaver, pilot, humanist, twin [and] boy band wrangler”.

When not on air, he is a decorated member of the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club.

An image from Ben McCormack’s Twitter page. Picture: Twitter

An image from Ben McCormack’s Twitter page. Picture: Twitter Source: Supplied

Channel 9 suspended McCormack yesterday in light of the child pornography allegations.

He was bailed yesterday to face a charge of using a carriage service for child pornography in court on May 1.

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Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes – FOUND guilty -Update gets min 6yrs jail


Cast of TV show Hey Dad, including Robert Hughes, Sarah Monahan and Simone Buchanan.

Update Finally Jailed today 16/05/14

Robert Hughes, former Hey Dad! star, to serve at least six years in jail over child sexual and indecent assault

Updated 16 minutes ago

Former Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes has been jailed for up to 10 years and 9 months for child sex offences.

Sleep well in jail "Hey Dad" Robert Huges

Sleep well in jail “Hey Dad” Robert Huges

The 65-year-old, who was last month convicted of 10 sexual and indecent assault charges dating back to the 1980s, will have to serve a minimum of six years behind bars.

District Court Judge Peter Zahra outlined each of the guilty charges against Hughes in his sentencing remarks, and raised the testimony of one victim who said she was too young to fight him off.

He said Hughes took advantage of opportunities with children and engaged in predatory behaviour and had “not expressed remorse”.

Judge Zahra also noted Hughes is in protective custody in jail and will continue to feel “social isolation”.

Hughes showed no emotion as the sentence was handed down.

He had pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of sexually or indecently assaulting five girls between 1985 and 1990.

The charges relate to the abuse of girls dating back to the 1980s, when Hughes appeared on one of Australia’s most popular television sitcoms.

The victims were aged between seven and 15 years old at the time of the offences.

Dozens of people packed into the Sydney courtroom for the sentencing, prompting the closure of the public gallery on safety grounds.

Earlier this month Hughes’s sentencing hearing heard harrowing victim impact statements from girls still suffering from the abuse they endured.

One woman, now 37, said she would never have children because of Hughes, and had come to hate the word “dad”.

Another told the court that she wished Hughes “nothing but misery”.

“I hate anyone looking at me. I have no self worth,” she said.

“I never thought I’d see this day. For 26 years I’ve tried to deal with the fact that this just happened. Maybe now I can try to piece my life together again, to not feel ashamed or dirty.

“I hope the punishment fits the crime and you will have to suffer for years to come just like I have … I wish you nothing but misery.”

The jury initially returned a guilty verdict on nine of the charges against Hughes, before taking one more day to find him guilty of a final indecency charge dating back to 1990.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on one charge of indecency charge.

One of the victims who Hughes indecently assaulted was seven when he put her hand on his genitals.

Another child was nine when Hughes told her to swim between his legs at Manly Beach. His swimmers were pulled down.

During the trial the court heard of sleepovers at Hughes’s home where the actor would walk naked into the room where the girls were sleeping and expose himself to them.

Hughes denied this, saying he slept naked and often used the bathroom at night but would never walk into the room where the girls were staying.

The trial lasted almost six weeks.

When the verdicts were read out Hughes stood up in the dock and yelled: “I am innocent.”

The actor is expected to appeal against the sentence.

3PM 07/04/14

UPDATE HUGHES FOUND GUILTY ON 10 OF 11 CHARGES
Former Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes has been found guilty of nine of 11 charges of sexually assaulting young girls in the 1980s.

A jury delivered its verdict after a trial lasting almost six weeks at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court.

Hughes had pleaded not guilty to the 11 charges that he either sexually or indecently assaulted five girls between 1985 and 1990.

The victims were aged between seven and 15 at the time.

Robert Hughes trial: Former Hey Dad! star guilty of one of final two indecency charges

Updated 6 minutes ago 08/04/14

Former Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes has been found guilty of one of his remaining two indecency charges.

Hughes was found guilty on nine other charges of sexual and indecent assault of young girls dating back to the 1980s.

The jury returned to consider the remaining two charges Tuesday morning.

Hughes has now been found guilty on one charge, dating back to 1990, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the other.

The 65-year-old sat quietly in the dock as the verdict was read out.

The trial lasted almost six weeks.

Earlier today, the judge dismissed an application from Hughes’s lawyer to dismiss the jury before it gave verdicts on the final two charges, due to the reporting of yesterday’s guilty verdicts.

“It is my respected submission that media reporting of the accused has been so extensive and pervasive that it is an impossibility to suggest jurors haven’t been exposed to it,” Greg Walsh told the court.

Crown Prosecutor Gina O’Rourke told the court the media reports were based on information the jury had already heard in court.

“This case has received significant media attention and it was inevitable that the nine counts were going to be reported,” she said.

“The media simply reported what the verdicts were and the outburst (by Hughes).

“The reports referred to evidence that the court and jury heard during the trial.”

In delivering his decision on the application, District Court Judge Peter Zahra noted the jury had been diligent and had listened to his instructions about avoiding media reporting of the case.

“The material that I have seen so far is regrettably what had been reported during the trial and I say regrettable because it has been inflammatory…I don’t propose to discharge the jury,” he said.

On Monday Hughes was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault.

The victims were aged between seven and 15 years old at the time.

District Court Judge Peter Zahra had asked the 12-person jury to deliver at least a majority decision of 11 on the remaining two counts of indecency.

Hughes had pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges of sexually or indecently assaulting five girls between 1985 and 1990.

As the verdicts were read out yesterday Hughes stood up in the dock and yelled: “I am innocent.”

Mr Walsh says it is anticipated the actor will appeal.

He told reporters outside the court that Hughes was a broken man and that he believed it was not a fair trial.

Hughes will be sentenced in May.

Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes exposed himself to young female co-star on set in the 1980s, court hears

February 24, 2014 3:33PM

FORMER Hey Dad! STAR Robert Hughes exposed himself to a young cast member on set at the same time other young girls complained about being woken in the night by his sexual advances, a jury has heard today.

Hughes, 64, has pleaded not guilty to a string of child sex offences, said to have occurred mainly in the mid-1980s.

Update 26/02/14

The boyfriend of an alleged victim of Robert Hughes said he would insist on taking her to bed and touch her

February 26, 2014

AN ALLEGED child victim of Hey Dad! Star Robert Hughes says he molested her at night and then gave her teddy back and told her she was a “good girl”.

Hughes in a publicity still for the popular Channel Seven show.

Hughes in a publicity still for the popular Channel Seven show.

The woman said she would often go to sleepovers at his Artarmon house, in Sydney’s north when the two families were neighbours.

He would walk into the bedroom at night while she slept on a mattress on the floor, she said.

“I remember Robert coming in and telling me to roll over then he would put my hand with his hand,” the victim told the jury on Wednesday.

He helped her masturbated him and rub his sperm on her genitals, she said.

The women who is now 35 said she started sleeping on her stomach and putting her hand underneath her after the incidents started to occur regularly.

On one occasion after it had happened again, Hughes allegedly gave the girl back her teddy bear and told her “good girl, go back to sleep”, she said.

The woman said the same incident happened a number of times but she did not remember exactly because of her young age.

She said she would start making excuses not to go to sleepovers.

After the girl told her parents at the age of seven or eight, they took her to a psychologist, sold their house and moved away from Hughes.

Hughes, 64, has pleaded not guilty in the District Court to 11 child sex offences involving five alleged victims.

The boyfriend of another complainant also gave evidence at his trial on Wednesday.

The man, who dated the girl from when she was 16, said she had first told him about the famous actor at a conversation in her kitchen at Christmas, 1986.

The girl’s parents were friends of the Hughes family and they would often come over to their house when she was a child, he said.

“She asked if I knew the actor from Hey Dad! Robert Hughes,” he said.

“She said late in the evenings when it was bedtime Robert would be fairly insistent to take the children by himself to bed.

“He would then put his hands under the sheets and under their private parts.

“After a short period of time he would leave the room and go downstairs where (the adults) where socialising.

“It had been brought up again on occasion when Robert’s face was on the TV or a reminder of it.”

But Hughes’s barrister Greg Walsh said the former boyfriend had said she told about the Hey Day! actor in 1986 but the show didn’t go to air until 1987.

The trial before Judge Peter Zahra continues.

A District Court jury has today heard five now adult women came forward after media reports alleging Hughes indecently assaulted a young girl who was also working on the popular TV program.

Crown prosecutor Gina O’Rourke has said in her opening address to the jury that Hughes told one of the girls “here’s your teddy, go back to sleep” after rubbing himself against her while she was at his Sydney home for a sleepover.

It is alleged another young girl was indecently touched while he was administering ear drops for an infection she had from getting them pierced.

Four of the complainants knew the actor, who was extradited from London to Sydney in December 2012 to face the charges, through their family or young friends.

The first woman who will give evidence in the trial expected to last up to six weeks previously enjoyed the company of the actor, who was a friend of her parents, but she “eventually came to dread his visits”, Ms O’Rourke said.

She will allege that around the time she was 14 Hughes went into her bedroom after a family dinner party, placed his hand under her doona and through her underwear.

The jury heard that at another party he returned to her room but his time she resisted as he “crouched” beside the bed and placed his fingers inside her underwear.

“The accused became quite rough, pushing back against her resistance,” Ms O’Rourke said.

The woman, now aged in her 40s, is expected to tell the jury she told her mother confronted Hughes about the assaults after she confided that she didn’t want to go on a proposed holiday the two families were taking together.

“You will hear [from the complainant’s mother] that the accused appeared not to care and did not respond to or deny the allegations,” Ms O’Rourke said.

She made a formal statement to police in 2010 after she saw a television program interviewing the woman who alleged Hughes exposed himself to her on the set of Hey Dad! by removing his pants.

Two other women are expected to give evidence that Hughes snuck into the bedroom where they were sleeping at his family home.

The jury heard one described being told to “turn around” while he rubbed against her before giving her a teddy bear and saying “here’s your teddy, go back to sleep.”

On another occasion in the same bedroom Hughes allegedly told her “she was a good girl” after she attempted, but failed, to stop his advances.

The court heard two of the girls made statements to police in the 1980s but Hughes denied the allegations.

Ms O’Rourke said the fourth complainant, a former family friend of the actor, will tell the jury she received “16 long stemmed red roses” with a card saying “Happy Birthday love RH” for her 16th birthday after Hughes told her he wanted to have sex with her but she had informed him she was only 15 and below the age of consent.

On an occasion in 1989 when he drove the then 16 year old home, the court heard Hughes asked her “when they were going to do it” and she said she didn’t want to.

“Well that’s your loss, you won’t find out how good I am,” she alleges Hughes told her.

The trial continues before Judge Peter Zahra.

Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes exposed himself to young female co-star on set in the 1980s

The Daily Telegraph
February 24, 2014 2:01PM

Court Hears

  • Five now-adult women set to give evidence against him
  • One claims he rubbed his erect penis against her face
  • Daughter of Hughes’ friends was ‘assaulted after party’
  • He ‘sent roses for 16th birthday to girl he wanted sex with’
  • 64-year-old was extradited to face charges. He denies them all

FORMER Hey Dad! STAR Robert Hughes exposed his penis to a young cast member on set at the same time other young girls complained about being woken in the night by his sexual advances, a jury has heard today.

Hughes, 64, has pleaded not guilty to a string of child sex offences, said to have occurred mainly in the mid-1980s.

A District Court jury has today heard five now adult women came forward after media reports alleging Hughes indecently assaulted a young girl who was also working on the popular TV program.

Crown prosecutor Gina O’Rourke has said in her opening address to the jury that Hughes told one of the girls “here’s your teddy, go back to sleep” after “masturbating” against her while she was at his Sydney home for a sleepover.

It is alleged another young girl had her face rubbed against Hughes’s nether regions while he was administering ear drops for an infection she had from getting them pierced.

Four of the complainants knew the actor, who was extradited from London to Sydney in December 2012 to face the charges, through their family or young friends.

The first woman who will give evidence in the trial expected to last up to six weeks previously enjoyed the company of the actor, who was a friend of her parents, but she “eventually came to dread his visits”, Ms O’Rourke said.

She will allege that around the time she was 14 Hughes went into her bedroom after a family dinner party, placed his hand under her doona and though her underwear before rubbing her vagina.

The jury heard that at another party he returned to her room but his time she resisted as he “crouched” beside the bed and placed his fingers inside her underwear.

“The accused became quite rough, pushing back against her resistance,” Ms O’Rourke said.

The woman, now aged in her 40s, is expected to tell the jury she told her mother confronted Hughes about the assaults after she confided that she didn’t want to go on a proposed holiday the two families were taking together.

“You will hear [from the complainant’s mother] that the accused appeared not to care and did not respond to or deny the allegations,” Ms O’Rourke said.

She made a formal statement to police in 2010 after she saw a television program interviewing the woman who alleged Hughes exposed himself to her on the set of Hey Dad! by removing his pants and “making his penis sway.”

Two other women are expected to give evidence that Hughes snuck into the bedroom where they were sleeping at his family home.

The jury heard one described being told to “turn around” while he put his penis against her and, afterwards, gave her a teddy bear and said “here’s your teddy, go back to sleep.”

On another occasion in the same bedroom Hughes allegedly told her “ she was a good girl” after she attempted, but failed, to stop his advances.

The court heard two of the girls made statements to police in the 1980s but Hughes denied the allegations.

Ms O’Rourke said the fourth complainant, a former family friend of the actor, will tell the jury she received “16 long stemmed red roses” with a card saying “Happy Birthday love RH” for her 16th birthday after Hughes told her he wanted to have sex with her but she had informed him she was only 15 and below the age of consent.

On an occasion in 1989 when he drove the then 16 year old home, the court heard Hughes asked her “when they were going to do it” and she said she didn’t want to.

“Well that’s your loss, you won’t find out how good I am,” she alleges Hughes told her.

The trial continues before Judge Peter Zahra.

 

 

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