Man who sent offensive election emails to politicians sentenced after landmark case

A Sydney man has been convicted and sentenced after sending offensive emails to federal politicians and candidates during the 2019 federal election and 2020 by-election.

The 34-year-old from Blacktown was sentenced to an aggregate of 21 months at Penrith District Court yesterday.

He was released with conditions including to be of good behaviour for three years.

It came after he pleaded guilty to 12 charges some of which included, using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, dealing in identification information, possession of identification information and misleading or deceptive publications.

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Using world-leading capability, AFP technical analysis identified the offender at a Blacktown address.

Some of the high-profile targets of the email campaign included, Dr Fiona Kotvojs, Kristy McBain MP, Dave Sharma former MP of Wentworth and Dr Kerryn Phelps.

'A line in the sand'

Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said the case marks Australia's first successful prosecution of a person for breaching electoral laws that prohibit misleading or deceiving Australians about the act of casting a vote

"Yesterday's sentencing demonstrates that those who seek to undermine the integrity of Australia's electoral system will be brought to account," Rogers said.

"A result like this draws a line in the sand as it provides precedent for any similar misbehaviour in the future."

The conviction comes after an extensive and "complex" investigation from the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

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In July 2020, AFP conducted a search warrant at that address. There they found 'the offender's computer actively sending offensive emails'.

AFP launched Operation BALAH in June 2020 after receiving a report from the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce (EIAT) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) about a mass disinformation campaign leading up the Eden-Monaro by-election.

"The report related to offensive and harassing emails, from apparent legitimate sources, being sent from an unidentified user to members of the public and various organisations," police said in a statement.

After conducting a technical analysis of the emails, police found an address.

In July 2020 they searched that property.

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"At the time of the warrant, the offender's computer was actively sending offensive emails," police said.

"Items located during the warrant, including SIM cards, were examined and found to be subscribed under different names. Subsequent investigations revealed those individuals had their identification fraudulently obtained by the offender.

"During the Eden-Monaro by-election, the offender sent more than 23 million emails to members of the public and organisations and he is believed to have sent a similar number related to the Wentworth electorate during the federal election."

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