A group of seven individuals linked to a performing arts school in regional NSW have been charged with 127 acts of child abuse.
NSW Police arrested four women, two men and a teenage girl following an investigation that uncovered a series of alleged crimes against three boys aged under eight.
The charges include aggravated kidnapping, sexual intercourse with a child under 10, common assault, the production of child abuse material and deprivation of liberty.
Circus school matriarch oversaw abuse
According to News Limited, a 58-year-old Katoomba woman is the head of the school, which offers classes in juggling, acrobatics, unicycle riding and other circus skills.
Police allege the woman is the ringleader of the group, who was charged with 43 offences, including choking a young boy in order to have sex with him.
The woman's 52-year-old brother is also one of the accused. He is believed to have filmed a young man raping a boy, as well as watch his sister have sex with one of the alleged victims. The investigation also revealed claims that the seven performed bizarre rituals in which they bled the boys and forced them to drink their own blood.
"Police will allege in court the group participated in ongoing sexual and physical abuse of three boys, who were known to them, between 2014 and 2016," NSW Police said in a statement.
In Australia, victims of child abuse and sexual assault can claim compensation against institutions that fail to protect them from predators.
However, the ABC reports the three boys at the centre of the case were not pupils at the performing arts school. Until more details of the crimes are unveiled, it is difficult to ascertain whether the alleged victims will be entitled to claim for damages.
Suspects announce not guilty pleas
Four of the suspects have already denied the charges, with the remaining three also expected to plead not guilty.
Lawyer Bryan Wrench, who is representing the accused, told the ABC there was more to the story than police are claiming.
"I'd like it specifically noted that we're entering pleas of not guilty to all matters," he explained.
"This will be resolved in court. They have always been ready to meet the police, and we hope to get them bail."
A bail hearing at Penrith Local Court is set for February 16.
Are you or a loved one a survivor of historic child abuse? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see how we can help.