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

A Manawatu man has been jailed for nearly six years after being caught accessing nearly 4000 child sexual abuse files and using social media to distribute them.

Nigel Maurice Urwin was sentenced today in the Palmerston North District Court to five years and nine months' imprisonment.

The 43-year-old had earlier pleaded guilty to nine charges involving the distribution and possession of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials.

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The starting point for Urwin's sentencing was the highest in New Zealand history for possession of this kind of objectionable content by a person with no relevant criminal
history.

In a statement after the hearing, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) said its investigation revealed Urwin accessed close to 4000 child sexual abuse files.

A large amount of which were found to depict the extreme sexual abuse of young children.

Urwin also used social media to distribute 109 files depicting the sexual abuse of children, including infants and toddlers, the DIA said.

"These are not just images, they are real children who are forced into extremely abusive and exploitative acts," Jolene Armadoros, the DIA's director of digital safety, said.

"Our tamariki are our brightest asset, by protecting them, we protect the future of New
Zealand," she said.

The internet, she continued, was a "wild and challenging beast" but her DIA team was determined to "rid the digital world of these horrific crimes and protect the children who are forced into these abusive acts".

"Education and prevention are a large part of what we do and we encourage people who are looking for this material to seek help. If you make, view, or distribute child exploitation material, you will be caught and prosecuted," Armadoros said.

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Urwin was also ordered by the court to register as a child sex offender.

Earlier today, the Herald reported the case of Aden Seymour Garlick, who was caught by fellow passengers on an Auckland city ferry viewing images of child sexual exploitation on his smartphone.

He was sentenced to a 19-month prison term for his offending.

The Herald has reported on several other Kiwis this year as it continues its series to unmask those guilty of participating in the international exploitation of children.

• 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