3 Apr 2024

More than two million child sex abuse files found in man's possession

4:08 pm on 3 April 2024

First published on Westport News

Auckland High Court, District Court, High Court, Crest, Coat of Arms, court, courts

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

A Westport man with a history of obtaining child sex abuse material is again facing similar charges for more than two million files.

The man, who has name suppression, pleaded guilty in the Westport District Court last week to five representative charges of possessing objectional publications.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment, or a $50,000 fine.

According to the summary of facts, the FBI alerted police in October that the man was likely downloading child exploitation material (CEM).

CEM includes images and videos of sexual activity, and indecent images.

The FBI provided New Zealand Police with a list of users' IP addresses on the 'Freenet' network believed to be in New Zealand. Police attributed four of the IP addresses to the man.

In September 2022, police searched the man's home. They found six devices in his living room and sent them to the Police High Tech Crime Group for examination.

The group identified 2,510,530 digital CEM images and videos either stored or deleted from the devices.

The summary said it was highly likely there were more files that could not be retrieved or identified.

One hard drive had 16 deleted videos and more than one million records of non-recoverable deleted files. Although the files were gone, their names indicated they had contained CEM. They were stored between August 2011 and August 2016.

The second hard drive had more than 500,000 videos and images, from August 2020 and September 2022, depicting CEM.

A third hard drive contained more than 200,000 deleted videos and images. From a sample of the 300 largest video files, 88 were playable and 39 depicted CEM. A sample of the 200 largest picture files showed 75 had CEM. Content ranged from July 2013 to March 2017.

The man's desktop computer had two hard drives containing more than 10,000 videos and images saved between August and September 2022. More than 300 pictures of CEM were also found, dating from May to September 2022.

A final hard drive was found to contain more than one million videos and images from March 2018 to July 2022.

In 1998 the man was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by the Department of Internal Affairs on six charges relating to the possession of child sex abuse material.

The man's lawyer, Doug Taffs, told the Westport court last week the man had been due to appear previously on the current charges, but self-harm and mental health issues prevented him from doing so.

Judge Michelle Duggan remanded the case until 16 May to allow for a pre-sentence report.