Child porn offender's attitude 'troubling', judge says

Phillip Burns donated $10,000 to Plunket after being charged with possessing child-abuse material...
Phillip Burns donated $10,000 to Plunket after being charged with possessing child-abuse material. Photo: Rob Kidd
A 72-year-old retiree whose email account was shut down after he downloaded child-abuse material simply set up a new one days later and continued, a court has heard.

Phillip Burns was blase when interviewed by Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) officials in May 2016.

"It's there, it's easy to get into. Type it, click it, bang; anything you want, it's there. What am I meant to do, shut it down when I see something that looks under 16?"he said.

When asked about the children in the material, Burns said they were "possibly from Russia, where probably worse has happened''.

He appeared before the Dunedin District Court yesterday having admitted a representative charge of possessing objectionable publications.

Judge Michael Crosbie described his attitude at the time of interview as "troubling, if not abhorrent''.

But defence counsel Anne Stevens said her client had begun steps towards change.

Burns had made a $10,000 donation to Plunket, the court heard, and no longer had an internet-accessible cellphone.

"It's like getting rid of all the bottles in your house if you're an alcoholic," Mrs Stevens said.

She told the judge the defendant was motivated to get psychological help.

In December 2015, Burns downloaded five images to his email through a Google account.

Six days later, he downloaded four more.

They totalled seven unique pictures showing children between the ages of 4 and 10 being subject to sexual abuse.

The worst showed a 4 or 5-year-old being violated.

Once his Google account was disabled, he set up another and continued trawling for the illegal pictures.

Burns' search triggered an alert at the United States' National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which contacted the DIA in New Zealand.

Burns would use search terms such as "nude pre-teen girls" to access the depraved images and analysis of his computer search history revealed he had been scouring the internet since 2012.

He claimed he only looked at the photos and had no desire to communicate or distribute to others who shared his interest.

"[This offending is] all too easy for people to commit as are many offences these days involving the internet,"Judge Crosbie said.

"The images are disgusting, degrading and signal inhumane conduct towards children.

"Despite what you initially said to the department, those images depicted real victimisation, real exploitation, often in situations where the children have been kidnapped, taken away from their homes and used in this vile way.''

It should be a warning to the community of how seriously the courts took such offending, the judge said, when a 72-year-old with no previous convictions was on the verge of being incarcerated.

Burns was sentenced to six months' home detention, to be served at his brother's home, where he would be barred from access to internet-capable devices and contact with children.

He was also sentenced to 150 hours' community work.

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