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Leave To Apply For Home Detention Inappropriate

Leave To Apply For Home Detention Inappropriate

Today the Tauranga District Court sentenced 45-year-old Te Puke man Ian George Thomas to eight months jail and ordered forfeiture and destruction of his computer and diskettes, for collecting and distributing Internet images of children being sexually abused. The Department of Internal Affairs’ analysis revealed 15,998 pictures and 844 movies, of which around 80% were ‘objectionable’. Images were of young boys, from babies to early teens, having sexual acts inflicted on them, performing sex acts and in sexualised poses.

Thomas was granted leave to apply for home detention but the commencement of his prison term was not deferred.

Thomas is the second trader in child sex abuse images, in the past eight days, to be granted leave to apply for home detention to serve his sentence, a matter that is of concern to those working to combat the trade.

ECPAT and Stop Demand, two groups working to end the trade in child sex abuse images, have labelled these decisions as “deeply concerning”. Spokesperson for both groups, Denise Ritchie, says “Traders in child sex abuse images generally commit these offences from within their own home. For offenders to be granted leave to apply for home detention to serve their sentence suggests a lack of understanding about the nature of the trade and those who are involved, and raises major concerns. Should the application be successful, even where the Court confiscates a home computer what’s to stop offenders on home detention immediately purchasing another? What’s to stop a third party from bringing in a laptop? Neither is it uncommon for collectors of such images to hide material that might not be found in the initial search. The opportunities to re-offend are considerable and we have no confidence in any service’s ability to properly monitor home detention in such cases.”

“Most importantly,” says Ritchie, “leave to apply for home detention trivialises the gravity of the offending. It implies that those who contribute directly to the online rape and sexual abuse of babies and children are committing offences at the lowest end of the scale. That is an inappropriate message to be coming from the New Zealand Courts, particularly when there are increasing global efforts to stamp out the trade. If our hope is to end the trade, we must crack down heavily on those creating the demand - men like Thomas. A prison sentence served in prison, combined with a compulsory sex offender treatment programme, is the only appropriate penalty.”

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