A citizen's arrest of a man allegedly taking photos of girls swimming at Wollongong Harbour on Australia Day has led police to uncovering almost two dozens photos on his mobile phone, a court has heard.
Michael Christopher Dale, 52, appeared in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday where he was granted strict conditional bail.
On Tuesday, members of the public stopped the Coniston man from leaving the packed beach at Wollongong after they saw him allegedly taking photos of young girls swimming in the afternoon.
Police arrived and arrested him, taking him to their caged vehicle, partially for his own protection.
Police looked at his phone and allegedly found a photo taken of two girls, aged 12 and 13, in their swimmers at 3.05pm.
He allegedly told police the girls were not his relatives and said "no comment" when officers asked if they were aware he had taken a photo of them.
The man's phone was seized for forensic examination and officers allegedly found two dozen photographs of little girls in their swimmers - aged between 11 and 14.
Police allege Dale took the photos in the Wollongong and Towradgi areas, mainly at beaches or shopping centres between December 2020 and January 2021.
The documents said a father reported two unsettling incidents involving a man, who police allege is Dale, and his daughters at Towradgi Beach in December and early January.
Police allege Dale was at the beach swimming in the water near the father's two daughters, aged 11 and 14, and remained close to them as they moved around the water.
The father yelled at Dale who then left the water and beach.
On January 4 the same 11-year-old daughter and her friend were swimming between the flags at Towradgi Beach when Dale alleged approached them and attempted to talk to them, saying "nice boogie board, did Santa get that for you?"
Lifeguards on duty were notified and captured an image of him before the father reported the incidents a few days later.
After his arrest on Tuesday, Dale was taken to Wollongong Police Station where he was charged with nine counts of possess/produce child abuse material.
Dale's Coniston home was searched a short time later and items of interest were seized for forensic examination.
Police allege the photos found on Dale's phone were taken for his "own gratification" and were consistent with his criminal history.
The court heard Dale was sentenced to a community corrections order and placed on the Child Protection Register in December after being charged with willful or obscene exposure in a public place which involved a number of girls aged 13 to 15 at Wollongong Harbour.
In court on Wednesday, Dale's defence lawyer Stewart Holt told Magistrate Michael O'Brien his client, who was not employed, needed to be at liberty to attend to his medical conditions.
Magistrate O'Brien noted the charges were "serious matters" but believed the risks to the community could be mitigated with strict conditional bail.
Dale must live at his Coniston home, report to police three times a week, not contact or go near any prosecution witnesses and not be in the company or contact any person aged under 18.
He must also not leave home between 8pm and 8am, he is not allowed to enter any beach or swimming pool nor use the camera function on his phone.
The matter will return to court on February 17.
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