WARNING: This story contains descriptions and language associated with child sex offending.

An Auckland man was caught by fellow passengers on a city ferry viewing images of child sexual exploitation on his smartphone.

Sailing to Half Moon Bay, Aden Seymour Garlick was seen by others on the ferry scrolling through pictures on the device.

The passengers were shocked when they noticed the photos were of naked children and soon phoned police, who later arrested Garlick.

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Court documents released yesterday reveal the case against Garlick, who first came to the attention of authorities in March last year.

He is one of several New Zealanders the Herald has reported on as it continues its series to unmask those guilty of participating in the international exploitation of children.

Garlick is now serving a 19-month prison term after being sentenced by Judge David Harvey in the Manukau District Court earlier this year.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to charges involving breaches of the Films, Videos, Publications, Classification Act.

In all he faced 10 charges of possession of objectionable publications involving child exploitation material and three other charges of objectionable publications.

After his arrest, police seized his phone and sent it for digital forensic analysis.

The data showed there were some 1494 files, court documents read.

Further examination of the phone revealed Garlick had actively searched the internet for child sexual exploitation images and had tried to anonymise his activities and hide his internet identity.

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Of the images found, 530 showed a child in a sexualised pose.

Three of the images were described as showing "extreme images", the details of which are too graphic to publish.

Other images were also classed as objectionable and involved bestiality but did not involve children.

Shocked and concerned ferry passengers called police after seeing what Garlick was doing. Photo / File
Shocked and concerned ferry passengers called police after seeing what Garlick was doing. Photo / File

Police further searched Garlick's property and found a PlayStation and mobile phone, which had a nine more objectionable child sex images.

"Suffice to say that it is well recognised that this type of offending is not a victimless crime, but the photographs that you saw and that you used all involve real people and somewhere down the track there are unscrupulous individuals who are prepared to abuse children, take photographs of that abuse for the consumption of others among them yourself," Judge Harvey said at sentencing.

He added he couldn't imagine someone looking at hard copy pictures of children exploitation in such a public place like a ferry.

"But on this particular occasion you seemed to take advantage of the fact that you could do this on your phone and do so in an online situation."

Judge Harvey said: "There can be no doubt in my mind that denunciation is a high-level matter for offending of this nature because it does involve, as I have said, the indirect abuse of children."

The collection of images Garlick had was described by the judge as "a large one", while the files had also been organised and frequently accessed.

"The charges are a representative sample of the number of images that you possess," Judge Harvey said.

"A further aggravating circumstance is that the age of the children, although impossible to identify with any specificity, [it] indicates that they were pubescent children."

The judge said that despite no involvement - or at least evidence of involvement - with trafficking the material or commercial exploitation, there was on Garlick's devices "a range of software available".

"And that is a matter of some concern," the judge said.

Judge David Harvey said:
Judge David Harvey said: "Those people in those photographs, those children are real children who have been abused." Photo / Jason Oxenham

Garlick had also attempted to justify or excuse his criminal behaviour, the court heard.

"You have sought to shift responsibility and to blame others," Judge Harvey said.

"You have demonstrated a hostility towards authority, and notwithstanding your letter you demonstrate a lack of remorse or empathy with your victims."

In a letter to the court, Garlick said: "My purpose in writing is to say I believe I am not the person I have been represented to be and that I have been consistently misquoted and misunderstood."

However, Judge Harvey was having none of it.

"That says to me, that you really do not have a grip on the realities of this particular situation and certainly in my view is not indicative at all of any sort of remorse," he said.

After arriving at a sentence starting point of two and a half years' imprisonment, the judge reduced the end sentence to 19 months after discounts for a guilty plea and other factors.

Under New Zealand law, once an end sentence is below two years a home detention sentence can be imposed if the judge believes it would be appropriate.

But Judge Harvey said allowing Garlick to return home "gives me some concern".

"The pre-sentence reports seem to point more towards a sentence of imprisonment than home detention, and they base that upon the fact that they consider that you are at a high-level risk of re-offending," Judge Harvey told Garlick.

Of the hundreds of objectionable images on Garlick's devices, three were described as
Of the hundreds of objectionable images on Garlick's devices, three were described as "extreme images". Photo / 123RF

A psychological report also showed Garlick didn't want to engage in interventions with a psychologist and wanted to forget about his offending and get on with life.

"Furthermore, you did not classify yourself as a sex offender because you had not harmed anybody," Judge Harvey said.

"That to me indicates a serious disconnect as far as your understanding of your offending is concerned. People in this particular case have in fact been harmed. The fact that you did not do it yourself makes no difference. Those people in those photographs, those children are real children who have been abused."

One of the concerns the judge had with home detention was Garlick's ability to access internet-capable devices.

"For those reasons therefore, you will be convicted and sentenced to 19 months' imprisonment," the judge said.

Upon release from prison Garlick will have to adhere to several special conditions, including not to own, possess or use any electronic device capable of accessing the internet or capturing, storing, accessing or distributing images without the approval of the probation officer.

Garlick was also before the courts on charges of possession of cannabis plant, for which he was convicted and discharged.

Other Kiwis reported on by the Herald this year, who were caught viewing, sharing and downloading images of sexually exploited children, include an Auckland man who paid $80 to sexually abuse a child in a Manila hotel room.

A Waiheke Island man and son of a former police officer, was also caught sharing and downloading images of sexually exploited missing children.

And a Hawke's Bay man was found in possession of more than 1000 images depicting the sexual exploitation of children and had been abusing two young New Zealand girls, one of whom he took objectionable images of on his smartphone.

• If you've experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone you can call the confidential Safe to Talk crisis helpline on: 0800 227 233