A Hamilton man who amassed about 600,000 images of porn, including videos of children engaging in sexual activity, has been sent to jail.
Since police discovered his collection at his home, Stephen George Hine has lost not only his job as an engineer but also his family, after his wife left him and the family home wasa put up for sale.
Hine, 50, sat looking dejected in the dock of the Hamilton District Court as his lawyer Rob Quin tried to get him a sentence of home detention, but Judge Philip Connell deemed his offending too serious and today sentenced him to two years and five months in jail.
Quin asked to have Hine's sentencing adjourned as he had been accepted on a Safe Network treatment programme to help him with his pornography obsession, which a psychologist had deemed as an "addiction", he said.
However, Judge Connell declined the request.
Crown prosecutor Martin Dillon said it was not known how long it had taken for Hine to amass the 600,000 images and videos - 290,000 of which involved children in a variety of sexual activity. A portion also depicted bestiality and sadism.
Hine had earlier pleaded guilty to 17 charges of possessing objectionable material, 19 of knowingly making copies of objectionable material and one of failing to carry out his obligations in regards to computer search systems.
The most serious charge - distribution - carries a maximum 14-year jail term.
Dillon said the "significant" number of images were discovered on four devices.
Police seized four storage devices containing the publications.
"The offending essentially involved a large volume of offending images found across those four storage devices. There were a total of 600,000 files identified by police of which over 290,000 files related to child nudity, pornography or sexual exploitation or abuse of children as well as bestiality. There was other adult and sexual related themes."
Hine had 36 files for which he was charged under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.
Ten were in the less serious category 1, which depicts children posing nude, with no sexual activity.
Two were in category 2 - children involved in sexual activity. Five files were classified as category 3 - non-penetrative sexual activity involving adults and children.
However, most files - 14 - were in category 4 which shows penetrative sexual activity between adults and children.
Five files were in the most serious category 5, which involves sadism or bestiality.
Dillon said aggravating the situation was not only the size of his collection but also the length of time he had been involved.
"Here you have over 290,000 files across four storage devices, offending you can't describe as a brief foray into the world of child pornography and that is supported to some extent with the defendant describing his offending stretching back some years."
Dillon said although it was Hine's first time before the courts, he should get limited credit for previous good character because of the length of his offending.
"This offending can't be regarded as a momentary lapse of judgment. The pornography collection in this case is very significant. It was pre-meditated and somewhat determined."
'HE'S LOST PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING'
However, Quin said although he had to concede there were some serious files and the size of the collection, there had been determinations in higher courts clarifying how the files were distributed today.
"While I have to concede it is a large collection, my submission is it's perhaps not as aggravating as it should be because of the ease of which these images can be downloaded and collected with current technology. How quick it is to access the files over the internet, how quick it is to download it, how easy it is to store them."
The offending had effectively destroyed his life, Quin said, as Hine not only lost his job as an engineer, "but pretty much everything", including his family.
"He's had a long career in the engineering industry but he had to give that work up due to inability to use a personal computer. His wife of a number of years has left him after the offending came to light.
"The family home is being sold and he is living in rental accommodation."
He had also seen a psychologist for his offending who has diagnosed him as having an addiction.
He said there was no suggestion that his client had been in chat rooms or engaging with the community.
Judge Connell said an "overwhelming number of children" were depicted in Hine's collection either being abused by adults or being "encouraged to abuse each other in all manner of sexual activity".
A pre-sentence report described Hine as being at high risk of reoffending but at low risk of harm to others.
Quin had urged the judge to consider a sentence of home detention, but Judge Connell said he couldn't look past the volume of his client's collection, which had taken place over some time, as well as the seriousness of the images and videos.
Hine will now be automatically added to the child sex offender register because of his prison sentence.
NAME SUPPRESSION DECLINED
Although Hine had not applied for suppression previously, Quin made a last ditch application because the Herald was at court. However, Judge Connell determined it was in the public's interest to know of Hine's addiction.
"First of all, it seems to me to be important that the community is aware that someone like Mr Hine has offended in this way. It's about indicating to the community that in the future they will at least be on guard if there's any suggestion of further offending."
The judge questioned whether that outweighed the concerns of the family, and said while he was "certainly sympathetic, for me the need for the community to know about this and this particular defendant outweighs that consideration so I don't allow suppression".
200 IMAGES UPLOADED DAILY
Judge Connell outlined the child pornography epidemic to the court.
He said more than 200 new child sexual abuse images were uploaded daily on the internet.
"The number of sexual predators connected to the internet at one time is estimated to be some 750,000. The United Nations has estimated that between 10,000 and 100,000 minors are victims of child sexual abuse networks.
"The number of child sexual abuse images has quadrupled between 2003 and 2007."
He said the demand for new child sexual abuse images resulted in the continuing cycle of children being sexually abused.
"It's said that an estimated 20 per cent of all pornography traded over the internet is child pornography.
"Since 1997 the number of child pornography images on the net has increased by 1500 per cent.
One of the fastest growing areas on the internet used by child exploiters and traders is peer to peer networks, which Hine was operating on.