The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


High Court decision sets precedent against home detention for traders of child sex images

The Tauranga High Court has set an important precedent, accepting the Department of Internal Affairs’ arguments, and making it more likely that offenders sentenced to jail for distributing child sex abuse images on the Internet will have to serve their sentences in jail, not on home detention.

In his judgment, Justice Williams stated that while he could not make a blanket statement that offenders jailed for trading child sex abuse images should never be allowed home detention, he thought that giving them leave to apply for home detention would be extraordinarily inappropriate.

“It is hard to think of another type of offending committed in a home capable of such wide ramifications,” Justice Williams stated.

The Director of the Department’s Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that the Tauranga District Court had refused to grant the defendant leave to apply for home detention when it sentenced him to one year in jail on a total of 41 charges of distributing and collecting videos and pictures of babies and children being sexually abused.

The man appealed to the High Court, seeking leave to apply for home detention. On Friday, the High Court dismissed his appeal.

Mr Manch said that Justice Williams’ decision is particularly important because of the comments it makes about such offending in general. Justice Williams stated that it is relevant to consider in declining home detention that:

  • the offending took place at home
  • the offending took place in private and in secrecy
  • the offending is easy to commit but hard to detect
  • the explosion in computer power, including mobile phones, digital cameras and mini-computers such as palm pilots, means there are few places in the world where someone wanting to access the Internet cannot do so
  • no matter what conditions the Parole Board imposes, an offender on home detention cannot be under 24 hours supervision and can easily access “tiny, powerful and cheap” technology to continue offending.

Mr Manch said that the Department’s policy is to oppose home detention for distributors of child sex abuse images. It instructs Crown Solicitors presenting its cases to oppose leave to apply for home detention when offenders are sentenced and, if leave is granted, it makes submissions to the Parole Board explaining why it believes the jail terms should be served in prison.


The Department’s investigation began in May 2003 when it received a complaint that a New Zealander who was distributing sexual pictures of a young boy was also offering a child to be sexually abused.

The Department tracked the New Zealander to a Tauranga address and identified him. In June 2003 Department Inspectors and a Police officer executed a search warrant. It became clear that the man did have access to a child, and Child Youth and Family (CYF) was involved. CYF ensured the safety of the child.

Department Inspectors seized his computer and a number of CD ROMs. Their analysis of the computer and CD ROMs revealed:
  • the invitations the defendant has sent to people to stay with him
  • more than 100 videos of the rape and sexual abuse of babies and children
  • more than 800 pictures of the rape and sexual abuse of babies and children
  • stories he had written about sexually abusing children.

In March, the man pleaded guilty to five charges of distributing child sex abuse images, 35 of possession and one of making objectionable material. The making charge relates to the stories.

He was sentenced on April 27 and the District Court imposed orders suppressing all information about where the child lives and any information that could lead to it being identified.

The defendant is a 40-year-old production supervisor of Tauranga.

Media contact:

Keith Manch Phone 04 495 9449
Director Gaming and Censorship Regulation Cellular 027 445 6420

Vince Cholewa Phone 04 495 9350
Communications Advisor Cellular 027 272 4270