Warning: This story discusses the sexual exploitation of children and babies.
A Wellington man told police he “went down the rabbit hole looking at porn” when he accessed folders with hundreds of videos of child exploitation material.
“I know it’s not an excuse and what I did was wrong,” Lou-An Crous said when he admitted possessing videos and images depicting the graphic sexual abuse of children, some just months old.
Crous was today sentenced in the Wellington District Court on 24 charges of possessing objectionable publications - offending described by Judge Andrew Nicholls as “confronting” and “monstrous”.
“It is offending against the most vulnerable of victims,” he said while handing down a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment.
His sentence won’t begin until next week though, as the judge granted Crous time to put his personal life, including pets at home, in order.
According to the summary of facts, Crous was sent a link in late 2018 to a cloud storage service where he accessed a “collection of material” online.
The collection contained 686 files in total, 508 videos and 178 image files, nearly all of which showed sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
In the collection, the man clicked on a subfolder titled “baby”, which contained 55 files. All but one were video files, with some victims younger than 1 year old.
He then saved a number of files from the folder to his own account, where they stayed for over a year until his account was suspended in late 2019.
It was a year later when the man was found with 134 video files depicting the graphic sexual abuse of children and babies, all saved to his desktop computer and iPhone. He had watched them on multiple occasions.
The summary of facts said he had used Google to search for material, with several terms used including “dirty talking mum about kids” and “zoofillia [sic]” (animal pornography).
Boys and girls were shown in the videos, all pre-pubescent. The longest video outlined in the summary was nearly half an hour long.
Crous’ lawyer Val Nisbet advocated for him to receive a sentence of home detention, stating he was remorseful for his actions and fearful of serving his sentence behind bars.
Nisbet said his client had immediately accepted he had committed the offences, and he was “willing and able” to co-operate with authorities, giving police passwords to his devices.
He also said there had been no further offending since 2019 and he has a strong desire to address his issues, including mental health struggles, through rehabilitation and counselling.
“He certainly does not want to appear in court again, and I can say with some confidence he never will,” Nisbet said.
Up until sentencing, Crous’ name was suppressed. Nisbet did not seek permanent suppression today, saying his client accepted publication of his name was part of his punishment.
Police prosecution Karuna Thawani advocated for a sentence of imprisonment, saying mental health impacts on offenders of this nature were common.
Judge Nicholls acknowledged Crous’ “high level” of remorse and letters of apology he had written to the victims.
“You described feeling ashamed and not happy with yourself,” he said.
The judge added Crous had a limited understanding as to how he had come to commit such offending.
Forensic psychiatrist Doctor Justin Barry-Walsh assessed the man and said in a report submitted to the court Crous likely suffered from a depressive illness and anxiety.
Dr Barry-Walsh also said there was a relationship between Crous’ mental health, use of alcohol and his offending.
“I do wish you well in the future,” Judge Nicholls said.
Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.