Man free after lengthy child abuse material investigation
A MAN has been sentenced to a suspended jail term of 18-months after facing Kingaroy District Court on Tuesday in relation to a child pornography investigation, which took place between June 9 and August 21 last year.
On August 20, 2019, police executed a search warrant of Mitchell Holmes' South Burnett property.
During the search they located a laptop, which was running at the time of the search and had five open tabs on the internet browser.
The tabs depicted pre-pubescent and pubescent girls in varying states of undress.
A subsequent forensic examination of the 63-year-old's laptop revealed 135 unique image, which depicted pre-pubescent and pubescent girls between the ages of six and 13, in varying states of undress.
Under the Child Exploitation Material (CEM) categorisation system, these images were classified as category 1 INTERPOL Baseline, meaning they were sexually suggestive or sexual in nature, but did not depict sexual acts.
"There was also a further 7598 unique images in the other illegal category, under the system of categorisation," Judge Nicole Kefford said.
"Descriptions of the type of images include that one particular image featured a pubescent girl exposing her breasts and another pubescent girl exposing her vagina."
A further 60 unique videos were located, described as primarily depicting girls between the ages of six and 16 in various states of undress.
An example was given of video showing a naked pubescent girl touching her breasts and masturbating, with another video depicting a pubescent girl touching her clothed vagina while posing on exercise equipment.
Holmes pleaded guilty to two charges relating the download and possession of the child exploitation material.
The first charge relates to the use of a carriage service to access child pornography material, which carries the maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, while the second charge addresses the actual possession of the material, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
According to defence solicitor Catherine Cuthbert, the offences stem from Holme's poor mental health, suggesting a combination of legal pornography and alcohol sparked a curiosity that led him down this slippery slope.
"He drinks heavily. Gets on the internet. Looks at pornography. And as is the way of these things, it seems to drift from the adult pornography into the child pornography. Curiosity is sparked and images are downloaded or saved." Ms Cuthbert said.
Drawing the courts attention to a psychological assessment, Ms Cuthbert said psychologist Peter Stoker expressed the opinion that Holmes is a situation offender, rather than a preferential offender.
This means the material doesn't reflect a sexual interest in underage girls, such as paedophilia, but is the result of other factors including alcohol abuse and poor self-esteem.
He also adds that Mr Holmes is highly remorseful and embarrassed by the offences, and the chance of him reoffending is low.
Rejecting the Crown's submission that 'a term imprisonment is the only suitable order', Judge Kefford accepted the opinions of Mr Stoker, saying rather than a term of imprisonment, "a sentence that focuses on rehabilitation is more appropriate".
For downloading the material, Mr Holmes has been placed on 18-months of good behaviour bond.
If the bond is broken within the 18 months, he will be required to pay a fine of $1000.
He is also required to report to a probation officer and obey all reasonable orders, and undertake any treatment and rehabilitation programs deemed appropriate.
For possessing the material, Mr Holmes has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, which is to be suspended.
Referring to a quote by Justice Debra Mullins during a comparable case, Judge Kefford said "the production of child pornography for dissemination involves the exploitation and corruption of children, who are incapable of protecting themselves.
"The collection of such material is likely to encourage those who are actively involved in corrupting the children, involved in the sexual activities depicted, and who recruit and use those children for the purpose of recording and distributing the results."
"The offence of possessing child pornography cannot be depicted as a victimless crime. The children, in the end, are the victims."
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.