Child abuse material found on phone in bible

Zacariha Gray, pictured in the Dunedin District Court in 2022, was jailed for more than three...
Zacariha Gray, pictured in the Dunedin District Court in 2022, was jailed for more than three years last week over more charges of possessing child exploitation material. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A recidivist sex offender likened child abuse material to "alcohol for alcoholics", after police found his phone full of objectionable material in a hollowed-out bible.

Last week in the Dunedin District Court, Judge Michael Turner told 37-year-old Zacariha Te Aroha Gray the public needed to be protected from him and his sexual deviancies.

With prior convictions for raping a child, Gray was placed under the scrutiny of authorities for 10 years when he was issued with an extended supervision order in January, 2018.

Such orders are reserved for high-risk sexual or violent offenders and allow Corrections to monitor individuals and manage the threat they present.

Subject to a range of restrictions, the defendant was not to have contact with under-16s and was banned from using internet-capable devices without permission.

After many breaches of the order, Gray found himself behind bars again last week, due to a police sting at his home on August 30, last year.

Two cellphones were found under a set of draws in his wardrobe and a third was located in a hollowed-out bible on his bookshelf.

Gray was co-operative with police and admitted he had been creating social media accounts to view or download illegal material.

Police found 452 images and 188 videos depicting varying degrees of child exploitation on the devices.

Some of the victims involved were only months old.

Much of the video content is too explicit to be described but the clips featured adults performing sexual acts on babies.

For Gray, the content was "like alcohol for alcoholics", the court heard.

Counsel Brendan Stephenson acknowledged his client had an "extremely warped sexual interest" due to his "warped background" and had begun treatment for his own PTSD.

"This is a matter where he likens it to an addiction ... He acknowledges prison is the place for him. He wants to focus on himself and his issues, somewhere he doesn’t have distractions"

Crown prosecutor Marcail Brosnan acknowledged the man had accepted responsibility but noted he had also rejected rehabilitation for years.

His extensive criminal history included serious convictions for indecent acts with children, and in 2022, the man was imprisoned for accessing an online cache of 508 child exploitation videos and 178 images.

In 2022, Judge Kevin Phillips said Gray had received a range of sentences in the past and nothing had stopped him from reoffending.

Last week, Judge Turner received an apology letter from the defendant, who expressed a desire to be rehabilitated.

"Your sexual deviancy dates back to 2006, when you received your first conviction. You have continued unabated since.

"I consider the letter you have written ... to be hollow and I give it no weight," the judge said.

Judge Turner stressed the severity of the man’s crimes, citing a United Nations estimate that between 10,000 and 100,000 children were victims of exploitation networks every year.

"Far from being repulsed or disgusted, you use the material to gratify your own sexual deviancies. This material relies on the exploitation and defilement of children for commercial gain.

"It’s deviancy such as yours that fuels the demand."

Gray was convicted of four charges of possessing objectionable material, six of failing to comply with his obligations under the Child Sex Offender Register, as well as two breaches of the extended supervision order.

Gray was sentenced to three years, four months’ imprisonment. , NZ on Air court reporter