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Judge soft on global child rape trade

Judge with a history of weak sentences soft on global child rape trade

A group that has spent years campaigning for tougher penalties for those who fuel the global child rape trade has condemned what it describes as “another shocking” decision.

In the Auckland District Court, Judge Philippa Cunningham today declined to imprison a 50-year-old Auckland “professional”, despite him being caught with 6063 videos and still images of child sex abuse material.

One report stated that “so appalling was the nature of the abuse” that Judge Cunningham chose not to view it. Stop Demand founder Denise Ritchie says “It beggars belief that Judge Cunningham refused to review the material because it was of such an ‘appalling’ nature, then proceeded to treat the offender so leniently.”

Facing a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, the offender was given seven months home detention and 100 hours community work, despite the Department of Internal Affairs’ submission for a jail sentence to “reflect the seriousness of the offence and its aggravating features”. The judge also imposed permanent name suppression including details of the offender’s professional job to protect him and his own children.

It was further reported that the judge, noting rehabilitative steps taken by the offender, farewelled him with the words “every new day is going to be a better day”. Ritchie says, “It beggars belief. Does this judge not understand that every download fuels demand for further material? Does she not appreciate that for two years this offender proactively fuelled the global child rape trade? Tragically, for this man’s countless victims ‘every new day will not be a better day’ as offenders - undeterred by weak sentences – continue to fuel demand and victims continue to be re-victimised.”

Stop Demand said it was a weakness of such cases that judges did not have to hear, firsthand, the psychological torment victims can endure throughout their life, instead often being swayed by pitiful excuses trotted out by offenders and their counsel. “In this case,” says Ritchie, “it was the offender’s fear of prison and his gutless threats of suicide that she took into account before sending him home to enjoy his home comforts.”

Stop Demand is concerned about the excuses now being accepted by the Courts to provide Court protection to those participating in the global child rape trade. These have included a wife’s heart condition, impact on future work prospects and suicide threats.

Ritchie says, “These trivialising sentences are totally out-of-step with Parliament’s strong direction to the judiciary in April, when it doubled custodial penalties for possession. They set a worrying precedent. They also run counter to global efforts to crack down heavily on all who seek out such material. Demand fuels supply.”

This is not the first time Judge Philippa Cunningham has come under fire for her sentencing. In 2011 she allowed a comedian to walk free from sex charges against his 4-year-old daughter, saying he was a talented New Zealand and he “makes people laugh”. In a rare judicial review, the High Court ordered the District Court to resentence the man. In 2013, the Court of Appeal set aside another decision of Judge Cunningham’s, replacing home detention with a term of imprisonment to an offender who committed, while on bail, a violent attack on a vulnerable 81-year-old woman. In 2014, Judge Cunningham triggered further outcry when she discharged without conviction a son of the Maori king, despite his pleading guilty to charges of burglary, theft and driving while seven times over the legal alcohol limit for his age – a decision that was subsequently overturned by the High Court.

Stop Demand Foundation calls for action to stop sexual violence, sexual exploitation
and sexual denigration of women and children www.stopdemand.org


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