Side profile of a woman and man, both wearing sunglasses and face masks, walking. Behind them is the court building
Benjamin John Waters (right) leaves the South Australian District Court after being sentenced this morning

A former South Australian Labor staffer will spend at least eight months on home detention for viewing and sending child abuse material, in what a District Court judge described as a “serious social evil”.

Key points:

  • Benjamin John Waters was sentenced to at least eight months’ home detention
  • He previously plead guilty to viewing and sending child abuse material
  • He was working for Labor MP Nat Cook when he was arrested in March 2021, but was expelled from the party

Benjamin John Waters was handed a one-year and three-month sentence with a non-parole period of eight months, which Judge Ian Press ordered to be served on home detention.

The 39-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing more than 600 child abuse images and videos on two USBs found at his house.

He also admitted to one federal offence of using encrypted messaging app Telegram to view and send child exploitation material.

For that offence, Judge Press suspended a three-month jail sentence on the condition he enter a two-year good behaviour bond.

Judge Press rejected Waters’ evidence that he only viewed the images and videos to gain an understanding of why other people would be interested in it.

He said Waters and Victorian paedophile Thomas Donaldson used Telegram to send child abuse material and the conversation between the two was “offensive” and “highly disturbing” over six days in January 2021.

“I’m satisfied you did derive some sexual gratification from engaging with an adult male on these topics,” he said.

“You fostered and maintained a relationship with Donaldson, and you did so by engaging in communications that you knew he would also enjoy.

“You were prepared and willing to pander to the desires of Donaldson by transmitting child abuse material.”

Judge Press described child exploitation material as “a serious social evil”.

“You now understand your offence is not a victimless crime – you have contributed to the sexual exploitation of these children and the international market in such material,” he said.

“Those who are part of the market share the responsibility for what is done to the children depicted.”

Judge Press said Waters had worked as a political adviser in both South Australia and the United Kingdom before his arrest in March 2021.

A woman wearing a purple blazer and purple lipstick with a serious expression
Nat Cook, now SA’s Human Services Minister, previously said Ben Waters’ employment was terminated after his arrest.(ABC News)

He had been working for Labor MP Nat Cook at the time, and Judge Press said the stressful nature of his employment led to Waters drinking alcohol to excess.

“Loneliness, isolation, social ineptitude, and excessive alcohol consumption … contributed to the offending,” he said.

Judge Press said the three weeks that Waters spent in jail after his arrest had been “harrowing” and he had complied with all the conditions of his home detention bail.

He said there were “exceptional circumstances” in Waters’ case because of his mental health struggles – including autism, bipolar disorder and social anxiety – that meant he would not be “well equipped” for prison.

The court heard Waters had remained sober since his arrest and was getting therapy, which meant the chances of reoffending were low.

“You have turned your life around in the past 14 months,” Judge Press said.

After Judge Press explained to Waters that any breach of his home detention or suspended sentence would result in him going back to jail, he responded: “I won’t let you down, Your Honour”.

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