31 Mar 2020

Multi-millionaire child sex offender granted parole

4:03 pm on 31 March 2020

A former Justice of the Peace who paid Filipino families to exploit their children online has been granted parole at his first hearing.

Martin Henry Lawes, who used to be chairman of the Takapuna Local Board, was sentenced to four years and six months in jail in September 2018.

The 76-year-old multi-millionaire was due to be released on parole yesterday after he met with the panel two weeks ago.

Martin Lawes in court for sentencing

Martin Lawes in court for sentencing Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

His final release date would have been 2023.

Over a period of about nine years, Mr Lawes transferred over $100,000 to pay for live sex streaming. Much of it involved adults, but he also paid families so that he could watch and record the abuse, directing the abuse by typing instructions.

Children abused in the videos received around $3 each.

In an interview with the police, Lawes said he was helping the people supplying the photos and videos as they lived in poverty and he was giving them money.

Sentencing him, Justice Wylie said Lawes knew how young the victims were and that they were living in poverty.

"It is apparent from the examples of the electronic messages set out in the summary of facts that the abuse to which the children were subjected at your direction was very much at the higher end," he said.

"It was degrading and dehumanising, I agree with the Crown submission that you were paying to have the children used as toys.

"But for anonymous voyeurs prepared to pay for such services, the trade of dealing in young people and vulnerable children for exploitation would not exist.

"It makes no difference to the child victims that they were being abused at the direction of a faceless and unknown person in a faraway country, they were still being abused."

Parole board chairman Sir Ron Young said in the panel's decision, released today, that Lawes had completed an 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.

"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."

In talking to the parole board, Lawes seemed to have a "better understanding or a better acknowledgement of both his part in the offending and the effect on the victims", said Sir Ron.

"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."

His release conditions include an undisclosed living address, not associating with anyone aged under 16 without written probation approval and attending a psychological assessment.

He will also not be allowed to own or use any device which can access the internet without permission.

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