An Auckland man has narrowly avoided jail after being convicted over an "appalling and despicable" revenge porn attack on his ex-girlfriend.

And the judge who sentenced him has a strong message for those posting or thinking of posting similar "despicable" content - "you will be held accountable and you will be punished".

It's the latest case to be tried under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which came into force in 2015.

Figures released recently revealed that there had been 55 convictions up to June.


In the latest case, a North Shore 29-year-old appeared in the North Shore District Court this week for sentencing after earlier pleading guilty to causing harm by posting harmful digital communications.

Cyberbully law: Jilted lovers seek revenge, end up in court

The Herald has chosen not to name the victim, meaning the offender, her ex, cannot be identified.

Judge Jonathan Down said the offender and his victim began a relationship in early 2016 but broke up in March this year.

During the relationship the victim agreed for her then-boyfriend to make intimate visual recordings.

In July the victim became aware that one of the recordings had been uploaded to a website called Pornhub.

Judge Down said the offender published his victim's name in the title of the video, which also included the words "dirty whore".

Eleven days alter the victim found a second video again with her name in the title.

Judge Down said both videos were posted without her consent by the offender.


"After having some recordings taken down once she discovered them, you continued to offend against her by posting other footage," Judge Down said to the offender in court.

"It was possible not only to identify her by direct reference of her name - but people who know her would have recognised her because of her tattoos which were visible."

The Herald understands all of the footage has been removed and steps have been taken to ensure the images do not appear in internet searches under the victim's name.

Judge Down said the offender "became bitter" when his relationship ended.

That was absolutely no excuse for his behaviour.

"The development of the internet has led to the prevalence of individuals taking advantage, like you have, of apparent anonymity, to cause harm and embarrassment to others," he told the offender.

"It is a despicable activity - in any of its varieties, this has to be the worst.

"To upload footage of someone involved in intimate sexual activity and their naked, exposed body in a situation where you are no longer in a relationship with that person is the most extraordinary and despicable breach of trust."

Judge Down said the offending, which had been "characterised as revenge porn' was becoming alarmingly prevalent.

"It is necessary, in my judgement, for the court to send a strong message so that other people in the community understand that simply sitting behind their computer and
causing harm to others is not going to be tolerated," he said.

"The repetitive nature of your offending against her and the description of her in the most appalling and disgusting ways is certainly as serious - if not more serious (than previous cases of revenge porn in New Zealand).

"Had it perhaps not been for a line of authority by which I am bound, you might have found yourself being sent to prison."

The court heard that the offender had previous convictions "running into five pages".

But they were mainly for dishonesty offending and drugs and not related to harmful digital

The offender wrote a letter of apology to the victim which was presented to the court at sentencing.

Judge Down said the letter was one paragraph in length and "unconvincing".

"And, I think, too little, too late," he said.

Judge Down said given the gravity of the offending, a sentencing starting point of 12 months in prison was appropriate.

However that would be reduced to nine months after a discount for an early guilty plea was applied - meaning the offender would only serve 4-and-a-half months behind bars.

"Rather than that, I will keep you in the community so you can contribute to that community though your work and your paying of taxes and so you can provide for the interests of the victim by paying her reparation," he said.

He sentenced the man to six months community detention with a curfew from 7pm to 5.30am so he could attend his full time job.

Community detention is a non-custodial sentence that restricts an offender's movements during their curfew.

They are required by the court to remain at an approved residence within that curfew and electronic monitoring equipment is installed at their address to ensure compliance for the duration of the sentence.

"All of your spare time will be taken up by being confined to your home address," said Judge Down.

He also ordered the man to pay his victim $3000 in reparation for emotional harm at a rate of $75 per week.

The victim was not in court for sentencing and asked that her statement about the offending was not read aloud.

The offender's lawyer Geoffrey Anderson said his client had made a "very, very, very bad decision" in posting the footage online.

"We know why he did it," Anderson said.

"He took it down, but he did it more than once, didn't he?

"The behaviour of (my client) is appalling… But he did take them down and plead guilty."

Anderson said the offender "succumbed to the loss of someone he cared about greatly".

"And he's acted in the most appalling way," he told the court.

"It couldn't be much worse, unless it was physical harm.

"He's exposed her to the world… that was a stupid decision."

Judge Down warned others against similar decisions.

Retired Judge David Harvey has done the first study into the effectiveness of the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Retired Judge David Harvey has done the first study into the effectiveness of the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"I want to send a strong message of deterrence to those members of our community who are thinking of committing such offences," he said.

"They will be held accountable, and they will be punished."

Revenge porn on the up in NZ

The Harmful Digital Communications Act was introduced in 2015.

Under the act it became illegal to post material online that deliberately causes serious emotional distress.


Those convicted face a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years' jail.

Retired judge and University of Auckland law academic David Harvey, who has been researching the figures since the law was enacted, said most prosecutions involved broken relationships, he said.

The majority of the offences were committed by ex-partners or partners who threatened to publish intimate photos or videos, sent threatening or obscene images or texts, or disclosed the victim's personal details.