A Sydney man has been convicted and sentenced over an offensive email campaign directed at Federal politicians and candidates in the 2019 Federal Election and 2020 by-election.
The 34-year-old man from Blacktown was sentenced in Penrith District Court on 2 June 2022 after pleading guilty to 12 charges.
According to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) media release, the man was sentenced to an aggregate of 21 months and released with conditions that include showing good behaviour for three years.
These included using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence; dealing in identification information; possession of identification information; and misleading or deceptive publications.
In June 2020, the AFP launched Operation BALAH after receiving a report from the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce (EIAT) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), about a mass disinformation campaign leading up to the Eden-Monaro by-election.
This report related to offensive and harassing emails being sent from an unidentified user to members of the public and various other organisations.
AFP technical analysis identified the offender at a Blacktown address and in July 2020 AFP conducted a search warrant at that address.
Using world-leading capability, AFP technical analysis identified the offender at a Blacktown address.
Items located by AFP during the warrant, including phone SIM cards, were examined and found to be subscribed under different names.
Further investigations into the matter revealed that those individuals had their identification fraudulently obtained by the offender.
Operation BALAH investigations revealed that the same offender had engaged in a similar offence related to the Wentworth electorate during the Federal Election in May 2019.
During the Eden-Monaro by-election, the offender sent more than 23 million emails to members of the public and organisations and is believed to have sent a similar number related to the Wentworth electorate during the Federal Election.
AFP Leading Senior Constable Glen Brazendale said: “The matter is in many ways unique because no person has been successfully prosecuted for an offence under section 329(1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.”
According to the AFP, the targets of the offender’s email campaigns had no knowledge of this offending nor any association with the offender, and have also condemned his actions.
The targets of the offender’s email campaign include Dr Fiona Kotvojs, Kristy McBain MP, Dave Sharma former MP and Dr Kerryn Phelps AM (and their political parties).