Anonymity for child sex predator
A call for action to stop sexual violence against women and children.
Media Release 06 October 2014
Name suppression for child rape trader condemned
Child advocacy group Stop Demand Foundation has slammed an appellate Court’s decision to grant a prolific participant in the global child rape trade permanent name suppression, allowing him to hide behind his wife’s medical condition.
Stop Demand’s founder and long-time advocate for victims of the global child sex trade, Denise Ritchie, says, “Granting this offender permanent anonymity is an affront on many levels. It’s dismissive of his victims. It ignores the rights of his community. It lacks deterrence. As a precedent-setting decision, it deserves widespread denouncement.”
The middle-aged professional man and father, from the Auckland suburb of Westmere, was earlier sentenced in June after pleading guilty to possessing and trading electronic images and movies of “very young girls” being raped and violated by adult men.
The offender came to the attention of New Zealand authorities in June 2013, following a tip-off from Queensland Police. Forensic examination of his electronic devices found hundreds of saved and deleted images and movies depicting rape and sex abuse of very young girls - and identified a network of online predators.
Despite facing a lengthy jail term, the offender was sentenced in June to a paltry 10 months home detention, to be served at his parents-in-law’s home away from his own children. At sentencing, his application for permanent name suppression was denied. An appeal was heard last week in the Auckland High Court. In a reserved decision, Justice Susan Thomas has granted the offender permanent name suppression.
Denise Ritchie, who sat through the appeal hearing, says, “The basis of the appeal was that the impact of naming him could result in a level of stress and anxiety to his wife that might – repeat, might - cause her heart to stop beating.”
Ritchie says, “While the woman appears to have a genuine heart complaint, the argument that naming her husband could cause her heart to stop is purely speculative. It did not wash with the sentencing judge in June. The wife’s heart survived a joint law enforcement dawn raid on her home last October. Her heart survived the discovery that her husband was a prolific participant in a trade that falls at the lowest level of human depravity - the global child rape trade. Her heart has survived the knowledge that her husband has a sexual interest in young girls, a similar age to their own; an interest that he shared with an online community of like-minded predators.”
At the man’s sentencing in June, Judge Eddie Paul said “The public are entitled to know what this man has been doing on a computer, on the internet, in his home.” He said that “prohibiting publication would do a major disservice to the children this man abused by viewing their images” and others who offended in such a way might think they could “hide behind a cloak of secrecy” if his name stayed secret. He noted that it was inexplicable that a father would look at and trade images he called “gross and extreme”.
“The offender was unable to sway the sentencing judge using his wife’s heart condition, yet has found a sympathetic ear with the appellate judge,” Ritchie laments.
“The wife has chosen to stay with her husband. But that choice, and her desire to avoid shock (in truth, shame) should not override the rights of his victims, the community, and the need for deterrence. The wife has made a choice; the raped victims had no choice. For a judge to put a wife’s stress and anxiety ahead of the stress and anxiety of his countless victims, whose lives have been marred forever, is contemptible,” says Ritchie. “Further, as a higher court precedent it opens a gateway that will encourage future offenders to seek anonymity on the basis of family members’ medical conditions.”
The decision should also draw indignation from parents and caregivers in the offender’s community of Westmere, to which he will likely return in a few months time. Evidence before the Court assessed the man as having a “medium” risk of re-offending. “We are not talking about demonising this man or encouraging vigilante action,” says Ritchie. We are talking about the rights of parents of young girls in this man’s community who are entitled to put in place safeguards against someone whose sexual triggers are young girls – as regards unsupervised visitation, sleepovers, swimming pool activities, and the like. To strip parents and caregivers of the basic right to protect their own children from this man is unacceptable.”
Denise Ritchie says, “Any suggestion that this man is purely an online, rather than a hands-on, predator, is dangerous. His online behaviour required young girls to be raped. Neurologists recognise the long-term impact of such activities on offenders. In this case, over a sustained period of time this father has etched onto his neural pathways sexual pleasure arising from the rape and violation of young girls. His sexual arousal trigger is young girls. Until he has undergone intensive rehabilitation and been assessed as low risk, he continues to be a risk.”
Most significantly, however, is the lack of justice for his victims. “There is a disturbing lack of insight by some judges into this modern-day crime,” says Ritchie. “Children are forced to endure the horror of repeated rapes, sexual violation and degradation, all of which is recorded and traded between predators. Each access of an image or video is a re-victimisation. Victims do not get anonymity; their young faces and bodies identifiable to their countless abusers. For many victims, their torment can be crippling and lifelong.”
A Victim Impact Statement by a 19-year-old, whose recorded rapes and sexual abuse by an uncle began when she was four years old, and traded as a popular series amongst predators worldwide, will be representative for many victims. In particular -
is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any
moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a
little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some
kind of sick enjoyment from it. It's like I am being abused
over and over and over again.
The truth is, I am being exploited and used every day and every night somewhere in the world by someone. How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever... ?
I want the court and judge to know about me and what I have suffered and what my life is like. What happened to me hasn't gone away. It will never go away. I am a real victim of child pornography and it effects me every day and everywhere I go.
Please think about me and think about my life when you sentence this person to prison. Why should this person, who is continuing my abuse, be free when I am not free?”
A so-called “justice system” that tramples over raped children in favour of sexual predators and their family members runs counter to a civilised society. If we hope to curb this modern-day “rape to order” child sex trade, we must crack down heavily on those who fuel its demand. If there were no demand, there would be no supply. This precedent is a massive and disappointing blow. It is a “slap in the face” to victims.
Stop Demand Foundation calls for action to stop sexual violence, sexual exploitation and sexual denigration of women and children www.stopdemand.org