The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Court upholds Department's view


The Christchurch District Court today sentenced a former Canterbury school principal on 10 Internet child pornography charges, setting an important precedent that helps define “possession” of electronic documents.

The teacher, who is now in Korea, was fined $1,750, and ordered to pay $750 towards the Department’s prosecution costs and $130 court costs.

The General Manager of the Department of Internal Affairs Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that the law has developed over many years but is now being confronted with the Internet and different forms of electronic information.

“This decision will be a useful tool in helping combat Internet child pornography,” Mr Manch said. “It helps remove one possible defence that could have been used by people who seek gratification from images of sexual abuse of children.”

In this case, the man had admitted he used a school computer for 12 to 18 months to join child pornography news groups and download images, including those suggestive of teacher and schoolgirl sex acts.

He also admitted that he would keep the news group sessions open during the day so that he could look at new images. He would minimise the images he downloaded so that people walking passed his computer could not see them, but he could maximise them whenever he wanted to.

His defence was a legal argument about the definition of “possession”. That is, he argued that because he did not save the images he did not have possession of them.

“An analogy of what he did, would be going to a newsagent, deliberately selecting a magazine, taking it home, reading it, and then throwing it away,” Mr Manch said. “Just because you do not keep the magazine permanently does not mean that you never had possession of it.

“When you go onto the Internet, what you are doing is using your computer to reach out to a news group, website or other source and bring images, text and other information to your computer. When you view or work with the information you have possession and control of it.”

Mr Manch said that it must be absolutely clear that this is not a case of a person receiving unsolicited e-mails or having unwanted ‘pop-ups’ appear on his screen when on the Internet.

Judge Ryan noted that there are defences in the law for people who receive such unwanted material.

However, Judge Ryan stated that this was not such a case, and he had had deliberately downloaded child pornography from the Internet on to the school computer, in the full knowledge of what he was obtaining and with full control of the images: “there is nothing accidental or fortuitous about what he did.”

“He looked for and joined news groups dealing in child pornography,” Mr Manch said. “He repeatedly went to those news groups, and again and again took images from them and downloaded them to the computer. They were images of adults having sex with children and other child pornography. He kept the links open for hours at a time to find more images, and he had full control of the images when he had them on the computer.

“He did all this for up to 18 months, knowing that the images were illegal.”

Mr Manch said that it is important the public understands what child pornography is. It is images of adults having sex with children, and images of children performing sexual acts and in sexualised poses.

The children are real and are abused by adults to create the images.

Judge Ryan described child pornography as “foul” and stated: “The initial creation of such material involves abuse of children and/or young persons.”

“This man and other offenders who possess or trade child pornography give the child abusers who create the images the audience and notoriety that they seek, and encourage them to commit more abuse,” Mr Manch said.

“Offenders search for more and more extreme images and create a ‘market’ for child abuse.

“New Zealand’s action against child pornography is not about pictures on a computer. It is part of international action combating child abuse.”

Media contact:

Keith Manch Cellular 027 445 6420
General Manager

Vincent Cholewa Phone 04 495 9350
Communications Advisor Cellular 025 272 4270

Copies of Judge Ryan’s decision are available by contacting Mr Cholewa.