A former SA Labor staffer who admitted to child abuse offences has made an “incredible” claim that he was under “duress” and has no sexual interest in children, a court has heard.

Key points:

  • Ben Waters used to work for Labor MP Nat Cook
  • He was expelled from the party when he was arrested by SA’s Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team
  • He has pleaded guilty to accessing and transmitting child abuse material, as well as two counts of possessing child exploitation material

Benjamin John Waters pleaded guilty to accessing and transmitting child abuse material using a carriage service in January 2021, as well as two counts of possessing child exploitation material in March 2021, including images and videos of children under the age of 14.

The 38-year-old worked as a staffer for Labor Member for Hurtle Vale Nat Cook.

He was expelled from the Labor Party in March when he was arrested by the South Australian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team.

Commonwealth Prosecutor Jeff Powell told the District Court Waters admitted having and accessing the child exploitation material on a USB, but denied having an interest in children.

Waters was a staffer at Nat Cook’s office.(ABC News)

“Mr Waters makes the claim that he received it from [his co-accused and former partner] under some duress and held it and retained it for reasons to do with his former partner,” Mr Powell said.

Waters’ ex-partner is yet to enter a plea to several charges, including producing, possessing and disseminating child exploitation material and indecent filming.

“We don’t accept that claim, but it’s allied with the other more fundamental claim that’s made by Mr Waters … that he had no sexual interest and no sexual attraction with respect to the material that he was looking at and with respect to children.

“Plainly someone who was engaging in these conversations and who had possession of these materials that was plainly someone who had a sexual interest in children.”

The District Court heard Waters had been receiving psychological treatment for the two years before his offending.

Waters’ lawyer Michael Dadds told the court there was a “genuine factual dispute” about the content of the psychological reports, with the prosecutor saying Waters’ mental health conditions only had some bearing on his offending.

“Those [mental health] conditions have some bearing on what we say is the inherently incredible claim that there was no sexual interest in children,” Mr Powell told the court.

The matter returns to court next month.

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