The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Jailed offender advised how to hide and encrypt electronic pictures


A Nelson man, was jailed today for collecting and distributing pictures and movies of children being sexually abused, had advised one of his contacts on the Internet how to hide and encrypt electronic pictures and movies.

What he did not realise was that his contact was a Department of Internal Affairs Inspector who had been on his trail for several months.

He had about 30,000 encrypted files on his computer and the Department was able to prove that at least 5,000 of these were of children being abused and sexually posed.

The Nelson District Court today sentenced the man to the maximum one years jail on each of 17 charges related to distributing objectionable material. The 17 jail terms are to be served concurrently. The Court also ordered forfeiture and destruction of his computer systems and objectionable material.

He was convicted and discharged on a further 36 possession charges. Jail terms cannot be imposed on these charges and he has no way of paying fines.

Judge David McKegg declined him leave to apply for home detention. Judge McKegg said that home detention was inappropriate because Internet offending of this kind is secretive and difficult to detect, equipment to commit more offences can be obtained and a deterrent needs to be imposed.

The Director of the Department’s Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that the case is a warning: “If New Zealanders choose to continue collecting or distributing child sex abuse images, they will eventually be caught.

“Tracking an offender who does not want to be found and then analysing a computer that has been set up to hide information can take a lot of time and can be complex,” he said. “It is often many months of work but our Inspectors work patiently and thoroughly to build their cases to ensure that they will stand up in court.”

This case began in February 2002 when a Department Inspector detected a New Zealander in the area of the Internet called “Internet relay chat” using a channel dedicated to trading pictures and movies of children being abused. The New Zealander sent the Inspector a picture of a child being abused and asked the Inspector if they wanted to trade images.

The same New Zealander was again detected in June 2002. On this occasion he stated that he preferred sex abuse images of children aged from eight to 14 and he offered advice on how to hide files and use encryption. He sent the Inspector another picture of a child being abused.

Information from the two contacts was analysed and the New Zealander was identified. A search warrant was executed on his home in November 2002 and computer systems and CD-ROMs were seized.

When interviewed, he stated that there were no child sex abuse images on his system and denied any knowledge of the distributing offences. He said that he could not provide passwords for the encrypted directories on his computers.

Inspectors’ analysis of the computers and the disks found many software programmes for encrypting and deleting files, ten software programmes for exchanging files over the Internet, two encrypted directories containing the 30,000 files, and a history of Internet use showing files being exchanged between his and other computers.

The Department filed 36 representative possession charges and 17 charges relating to distributing child sex abuse images.

He pleaded guilty to the 36 possession charges and not guilty to the distribution charges. After a defended hearing in December last year the Court found him guilty on all charges. He is a 34-year-old yard co-ordinator.


The Films Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 prohibits the collection and distribution of objectionable material. Images of children being sexually abused or sexually posed are objectionable under the Act.

Current penalties are:

  • for possession, fines of up to $2,000 per charge
  • for distribution, fines of up to $20,000 on an individual or up to $50,000 on an organisation, or jail terms of up to 1 year on an individual.

Parliament is considering an amendment to the Act that would increase the penalties for possession to up to two years jail and those for distribution to up to 10 years jail.

Media contact

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

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