A young Dunedin man is challenging his 28-month prison term for possessing and distributing child pornography images.
The 19-year-old, who has Asperger's syndrome, was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on representative charges of possessing and distributing thousands of objectionable pictures and video files from the internet, including one showing the sexual torture of a year-old baby girl.
Although the Asperger's condition failed to keep the defendant out of jail, Judge John Macdonald agreed to grant him final name suppression because of material in a psychologist's report.
Crown counsel Robin Bates did not oppose the application.
The offences, committed between July, 2013 and March last year, were detected after an anonymous report to the United Nations National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about an internet post in the "Human Sexuality" forum.
When interviewed about the more than 15,000 objectionable pictures and videos on his iPhone, the defendant said he had been interested in such material since he was 15 or 16.
Counsel Anne Stevens argued strongly for home detention on the basis of the psychologist's report, which pointed to a clear link between the man's offending and his Asperger's condition. He was simply collecting and in turn distributing images without appreciating there were victims involved.
The report showed how the condition related to the offending, Mrs Stevens said. The man's impaired view meant he did not experience feelings of guilt about what he was doing and had no empathy for the victims.
His thinking was "entirely limited and governed" by the syndrome. But, when challenged, he showed he could perhaps develop victim empathy.
When first spoken to, the defendant said he was not interested in "some stuff", that he had it only so he could collect what he was interested in, Mrs Stevens said. He was a young man "handicapped by his illness" so did not see his offending as something which hurt people. He saw it in relation to a collection of objects.
"Collecting is one thing, distribution seems to me a separate issue", Judge Macdonald said.
Despite the fact he had no victim empathy, the defendant would have appreciated what he was doing was wrong. Because of his intelligence, he must have known there would be consequences.
"What you did was not just for collection but for your own sexual gratification," the judge said.
He accepted the defendant was still a young man, and was "even younger" when his interest in such material came to light. But it was not a one-off case of offending. It had been offending in a very significant way over an extended period.
And he accepted the defendant was of previously good character, that he suffered from Asperger's and prison could be more difficult for him than for others.
But making allowance for the various factors in the defendant's favour, Judge Macdonald sentenced him to 28 months' jail for distributing objectionable images, with a concurrent 12-month term for possessing the images.
* After the sentencing, Mrs Stevens confirmed to the Otago Daily Times she had filed an appeal against the prison sentence.