Michael Thomas Mowbray: North Sydney Girls School worker had child porn on computer, hard drives

A former IT employee at a prestigious Sydney girls school searched the term “teen jailbait” on the dark web to find child abuse material depicting girls between the ages of 10 and 15, a court has been told.

Michael Thomas Mowbray was working as an IT officer at North Sydney Girls High School around the time he was charged with possessing child abuse material in November 2022.

He initially sought to fight the charges but reversed the plea and pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child abuse material.

Dressed in a blue suit, Mowbray faced Manly Local Court on Wednesday where a police prosecutor revealed the 30-year-old had searched “teen jailbait” to find the material.

The prosecutor argued the former IT worker was “cognisant” of his criminality through his searches.

After searching for the images on the dark web through using the TOR browser, the court was told he then uploaded three images to his OneDrive account, which he accessed on his work computer at the school.

The remainder of the 198 images and 103 videos were located on his bedroom computer and on a four terabyte encrypted hard drive.

The court was told Mowbray named one of the files “extreme teenie video collection” and another folder “shy British amateur teens home alone f**k yay”.

The police prosecutor said the nature and content of the material was concerning, as it depicted girls as young as 10 who are not easily mistaken for adults.

Mowbray was caught while he was working as an IT support specialist for the prestigious school, working out of a “help desk office” in the library offering support services.

The court was told he had a password protected computer at the school which was accessed by a new administrator on November 22, 2022 who found the folder on the computer in Mowbray’s personal OneDrive account.

The principal was notified and contacted police immediately.

A search warrant was conducted at his home two days later, where the remainder of the material was found.

Magistrate Robyn Denes said the material depicted “very clearly vulnerable children”.

She said it was clear Mowbray knew what he was doing because he was accessing the dark web, which she said is an “indication” it is something which “will not be readily accepted in the community”.

“He clearly wanted a particular type of image,” the magistrate said.

“I accept it wasn’t entirely sophisticated … some was on OneDrive … the majority of the material was encrypted, there is a level of sophistication.

“Possessing child pornography is a callous and predatory crime.”The magistrate also noted the offence is not victimless as it creates a market for the continued exploitation and abuse of children.

Ms Denes said once the images are online they are “there forever”.

“These children can never escape these images … imagine going through life knowing … your children may come across these images of you as a child,” she told the court.

“It’s horrendous … it’s not victimless.”

Mowbray sat in the public gallery holding a book and some chewing gum as the magistrate told the court his crimes were so serious there was no alternative to a prison sentence.

He did not react as Ms Denes sentenced him to 18 months behind bars for the protection of the community and children.

She gave him a non-parole period of nine months, meaning he will be eligible for parole on November 20.

Mowbray was walked from the court by Sheriffs officers and taken into the cells.

The magistrate also ordered the devices with the material be destroyed.

His defence lawyer George Costantine indicated he would be appealing the sentence and will apply for bail for his client on Wednesday afternoon.

NCA NewsWire revealed last year Mowbray’s employment at the school ended shortly before his arrest, with a source saying staff were asked to hand in their school-issued laptops to the IT department in the following days.

At the time, a Department of Education spokesman told NCA NewsWire the safety and wellbeing of students and staff was its top priority.

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