A former North Shore community board chairman has been jailed for more than four years for paying for access to live child sex shows.
Martin Henry Lawes appeared in the High Court at Auckland today for sentencing after earlier pleading guilty to three counts of entering into a dealing involving people under 18 for sex, one charge of being knowingly concerned in the importation of objectionable publications, and one charge of possessing an objectionable publication.
He was jailed for four years and six months.
The former chairman of the Takapuna Community Board, part of the now defunct North Shore City Council, was arrested last September as a result of an investigation into an international child pornography operation led by the FBI in the US.
Lawes, 75, paid more than $100,000 over about 10 years to access live sex shows, which were filmed in Asia and streamed in New Zealand on his computers.
Many of the shows depicted little girls.
Typically the "shows" involved one or more children performing sexual acts on themselves or others, however, some also involved adults with children.
Lawes was sentenced by Justice Edwin Wylie this morning.
He said nothing during the hearing, sitting with his head down in the dock and glaring briefly at journalists in court.
His lawyer David Jones, QC, sought discounts to his sentence on the basis that he co-operated with police and had made donations of $45,000 to charities as a form of reparation.
"Co-operation was not something Mr Lawes had to do," Jones said.
Lawes gave police his email password which "provided them with the key to the information" they needed.
Jones said a psychological report stated his client had shown "a real shift" since his arrest.
He said Lawes now had "insight and empathy" into his offending.
"He is a man who is doing what he can to look into himself and determine what the drivers were and trying to address those," he told the court.
"He is a man who has admitted what he has done, taken steps to address what he has done and is trying to make amends."
According to Jones, Lawes had made donations to charities "specifically set up to deal with child sexual exploitation" in a bid to make amends for his crimes.
Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey conceded Lawes was entitled to a "modest discount" for co-operating with police - however that help was "passive rather than active" and he could have offered much more information than he did to assist the investigation.
But McCoubrey said the donations should not entitle Lawes to any substantial discount given the huge amount spent on the sexual streaming - which the offender told police at the time of his arrest was not a significant amount given his wealth, said to be in the millions.
A pre-sentence report read in court by Justice Wylie revealed that Lawes' penchant for pornography started at a time he was struggling to sleep.
He told the report writer that he started with adult women but "spiralled" into child porn.
Lawes said he had "immense disappointment" for his actions.
Justice Wylie said Lawes, who has been married twice and has two children and grandchildren, had enjoyed a successful career over the years.
While some of his family still supported Lawes, others had shunned him.
He said aggravating factors of the offending included the extent of the offending, planning and premeditation and young age of the victims which made them "particularly vulnerable".
The fact the children were in a poverty-stricken country was also an aggravating factor as well as the "considerable and likely permanent" impact on the children was another factor.
"Your abuse of the children was at the higher end… You were paying to have the children used as toys," said Justice Wylie.
"The offending was repetitive and consistent."
Justice Wylie branded Lawes' offending as "serious" and it made no difference whether he was physically offending against the children or doing it from a distance.
"At no time did you seek yo extract yourself from the situation… the children were abused and exploited at your direction and for your gratification," he said.
Justice Wylie said he was "not persuaded" by Lawes' claim he was remorseful.
He sentenced Lawes to a total of four years and six months in prison, after giving him a 25 per cent discount for his guilty plea and small discounts for previous good character, his age, his co-operating with police and donating to the charities.
Justice Wylie ordered Lawes to be added to the Child Sex Offender Register.
The downfall of Martin Lawes
In November 2015, five adults were arrested in Iligan City in the Philippines for running a live child-sex streaming service online.
Twelve girls were rescued from the horrific conditions.
Lawes was later found to be making payments to the leaders of the child-sex ring.
In September 2017, police seized three devices from Lawes' home and when the computers were searched by New Zealand Customs, dozens of objectionable publications were found.
Hundreds of images of young and teenage children, some potentially as young as 3, were found on his computer.
Online chat and email communications also show Lawes was, at times, asking how old the children were and directing what he wanted his victims to do.
When interviewed by police, Lawes stressed he mostly viewed shows involving adults and said the money he sent was not significant because he was a multi-millionaire.
He also said he was helping the children involved because they lived in poverty.
Lawes further claimed he had been exploited by the leaders of the sex ring rather than him exploiting his victims.