A man who traded pornographic images of his toddler son in return for indecent photographs involving girls has been sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison.
The 27-year-old sat expressionless in Oamaru District Court today as he was sentenced by Judge Joanna Maze on two charges of sexual violation on a child under 12, one charge of indecent assault, eight charges of doing an indecent act and 15 charges of making, distributing and possession of objectionable publications (five of each).
The offending came to light when an international agency alerted police to a file-sharing website where the man was offering to trade images recording his offending against his son for indecent photographs involving girls.
The man was arrested as part of a police operation that began last July involving staff across the country including Northland, Auckland City, Eastern, Canterbury and Southern districts.
The operation targeted alleged paedophiles in New Zealand and overseas, including Aaron John Ellmers aged 41, who last month was sentenced to 20 years' preventative detention.
Addressing the 27-year-old father in court today, Judge Maze told him: ``Police called on you. You gave them access to your email accounts and electronic equipment which was necessary for the enquiry to continue and they found still images and films. Some constituted child exploitation material involving your exploitation involving this small child.''
"All of this was filmed and placed on an email account folder, or folders, for sending on to others.''
Police uncovered 815 still objectionable images and 84 moving objectionable images.
The man was granted final name suppression to protect his son and the boy's mother.
The offences occurred between May and July 2012, but the significant acts occurred over a two-week period in May.
Crown counsel Andrew McRae submitted that there was particular cruelty, that it was degrading conduct and made more so by making and keeping and distributing a record of his actions and abuse.
"The crown submits, and I accept, that there is an abuse of trust. This child was entitled to expect protection by you from harm and exploitation. You were the one person that he was entitled to expect to help him,'' Judge Maze said.
"How does a 13-month-old child protect himself? He can't. He can't even form a complaint,'' she said.
Judge Maze said the child was very vulnerable and the offending was done for exploitation so there was premeditation.
"You created a trading commodity so you could get pornographic material back,'' she said.
"You deliberately filmed this child's distress, in effect, and you offended so as to exploit the child in your care for trading purposes.''
She said it was hard to imagine a wider distribution channel than the internet and harm to the victim was difficult to quantify, she said.
The harm will inevitably be profound even without a specific personal memory,'' she said.
"[But] It will be extremely difficult to keep your position in his life from him as he grows up and there will be inevitable distress at a profound level when he discovers the truth.''
Detective Sergeant Dan Keno of Oamaru police said today's conviction was an opportunity to remind parents and guardians to be aware of the dangers that online activity could create for children.
People with concerns about any suspicious online activity that related to children should contact Police or the Child Youth and Family helpline.
Parents could also contact their local schools to find out more about programmes that are available to protect children from online predators.
Mr Keno said working on this particular case had been challenging but also rewarding.
"It has been personally rewarding for me to work on a case where a key outcome is that a young child now has a positive future in a safe environment.
"I chose to investigate these crimes because I find it the personally rewarding to put paedophiles in jail. It is a difficult job and it does take a personal toll. The role demands that you get close to people so they can trust you. You've really got to care about the victims to do your job well.''
With the intervention of police in this case, strategies were put in place to provide opportunities for the victim to recover and move forward, he said.
"Young children are the most vulnerable participants in society. They don't have a voice and can't stand up for themselves. Today, police were able to protect a child and give them a voice.''