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Local man arrested over child sex abuse images

In the wake of a Wairarapa man’s arrest for the possession and importation of child sex abuse material, agencies are urging the region’s residents to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity.

The New Zealand Customs Service [NZCS] said the 42-year-old Filipino national appeared at Wellington District Court on Monday morning on two charges of possessing and importing objectionable publications that depicted the sexual abuse of children.

The accused arrived at Wellington Airport on Saturday from a holiday in the Philippines.

He was arrested by customs investigators after child sexual abuse images were found on two of his phones.

A search warrant was carried out at his Wairarapa home on Monday, and additional electronic devices were seized for further investigation.

It is not known where in Wairarapa he lives.

The maximum penalty for each of the two charges he faces is 10 years imprisonment.

Customs said the man was granted bail, and his next court appearance is set for February 13.

NZCS investigations manager Cam Moore said the organisation was alerted to the alleged offending by an overseas-based social media chat platform and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, based in the United States.

“Unfortunately, reporting on the online sexual exploitation of children continues to increase every year in New Zealand.

“This is abhorrent offending, with real victims and real consequences,” he said.

Although a police spokesperson said there was no data for previous child exploitation material cases in Wairarapa, customs said it received between seven and 10 online child exploitation allegations daily from around New Zealand.

Michelle Ihaka, coordinator for Wairarapa Rape and Sexual Abuse Collective – a free and confidential service – said offending of this kind happened everywhere and had been happening in Wairarapa well before Saturday’s arrest.

She said people tended to think of exploitation in terms of kidnapping, but this was not always the case, while historical examples of child exploitation are still being passed around online.

“If anybody suspects someone of watching child pornography or witnessing abuse, there is no harm in reporting that to police,” Ihaka said.

But she also warned against members of the public playing detective, in case it tipped suspects off and gave them
the opportunity to destroy evidence.

If someone deletes the illegal images, it can be significantly harder to prove its possession.

According to Moore, customs, police and the Department
of Internal Affairs were strongly committed to doing everything they could to deal with child exploitation offending within New Zealand’s borders.

Anyone who suspects someone of producing or trading in child sexual abuse images
or videos should contact customs at 0800 WE PROTECT [0800 937 768] or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Such tipoffs are kept confidential.

“If you are at risk of being abused, or know of someone who is, contact the police immediately.”

Advice on how to report suspected child exploitation online to the New Zealand Police can be found on the agency’s website.

Police and customs were unable to provide any further comment about the recent charges because the case was now before the courts.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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