A multimillionaire paedophile and former community board chairman who paid more than $100,000 over a decade to livestream child abuse has been released from prison.

A decision published today by the Parole Board said Martin Henry Lawes was released yesterday.

His parole came after the 76-year-old's first hearing before the board on March 16.

Lawes was sentenced in September 2018 to four years and six months' imprisonment for dealing with under 18 year olds for sexual purposes, as well as possession of objectionable material.


He spent 18 months behind bars.

Lawes' offending involved paying significant sums of money to watch live child sex shows, which were filmed in Asia and streamed to his computer in Auckland. A multi-national investigation, led by the FBI in the United States, into an international child pornography operation found Lawes had paid more than $100,000 over nearly a decade to watch the abuse.

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The Parole Board's decision, written by chairperson Sir Ron Young, said Lawes still "has some way to go" with his rehabilitation but was no longer considered to be an undue risk to the community.

The decision said Lawes had completed the short intervention programme.

"When he began, the psychologist noted that he had a distorted view of his offending, he identified others who were responsible, minimised the impact and saw himself as simply helping the people involved," the decision reads.

"He apparently had some eight months of psychological work over a period of some 16 sessions before sentencing.

"We agree with the assessment of the Corrections psychologist that this appears to have been of little or no value to Mr Lawes given, when he started his prison sentence he had the attitudes we have mentioned."

Martin Lawes, a former community board chairman, was sentenced to four years and six months' imprisonment. Photo / NZ Herald
Martin Lawes, a former community board chairman, was sentenced to four years and six months' imprisonment. Photo / NZ Herald

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 multimillionaire. He also said he was helping the children involved because they lived in poverty in South-East Asia.

Lawes further claimed he was the person being exploited by the leaders of the child sex ring rather than his vulnerable victims.

"We talked to Mr Lawes [on March 16] in quite some detail about his offending and his understanding of it," the Parole Board's decision reads.

"It is proper to acknowledge that Mr Lawes does seem to have a better understanding or a better acknowledgement of both his part in the offending and the effect on the victims.

"We still think he has some way to go, however, but we are satisfied, given the extensive support he now has, given the safety plan which he was prepared which does now identify all of his high-risk situations and, given the short intervention programme, that he is no longer an undue risk and can be released."

As part of his parole, special conditions imposed on Lawes will last for two years.

They include having no contact or association with a person under 16, without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer. He must also attend a psychological assessment and participate in and complete any recommended treatment as directed.

The Parole Board said Martin Lawes still
The Parole Board said Martin Lawes still "has some way to go" with his rehabilitation. Photo / NZ Herald

Lawes was also banned from using or possessing any device capable of accessing the internet unless approved by a Probation Officer. Any use of the internet by Lawes can also be monitored, the conditions read.

The former Takapuna Community Board chairman, of the now defunct North Shore City Council, was classed as a minimum security prisoner and had a final release date of March 2023.

Lawes is one of several New Zealanders involved in the international online exploitation of children.

As part of an ongoing investigation by the Herald, other Kiwis caught and prosecuted have had their cases and sickening crimes revealed. They include an Auckland man who paid $80 to sexually abuse a child in a Manila hotel room, and the son of a former police officer who was downloading and sharing images of exploited kids.

Members of the NZ Police Covert Online Investigation Unit have told the Herald the exploitation of children on the internet, in some cases the dark web, was a "borderless crime".

"We are always uncovering offenders online. Whether it be people who are grooming children or trading in child exploitation material, there's no shortage of offenders for us to locate," Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael said.

• 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