Child porn ped­lar gets 15 years

Judge not fazed by for­eign law

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SHAIN GERMANER

ROBERT de Vries, the man be­lieved to have spent 20 years dis­tribut­ing large amounts of child pornog­ra­phy across the globe from his Jo­han­nes­burg home, has been sen­tenced to an ef­fec­tive 15 years be­hind bars.

The sen­tenc­ing at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the US Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, as US agents were the ones who caught De Vries try­ing to ped­dle his wares to US cit­i­zens.

De Vries, 57, was con­victed last week on 107 charges of dis­tri­bu­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing and pos­ses­sion of child pornog­ra­phy at the Jo­han­nes­burg High Court, af­ter eight years of court pro­ceed­ings and in­ves­ti­ga­tion. While he ini­tially ap­plied to have his bail ex­tended pend­ing his sen­tenc­ing pro­ceed­ings this week, this was de­nied af­ter new images of child pornog­ra­phy were found on his com­puter and hard drives dur­ing a po­lice raid.

He was caught in 2010 by US gov­ern­ment agents dis­tribut­ing more than 296 000 images, sto­ries and videos of un­der-age chil­dren in com­pro­mis­ing po­si­tions.

How­ever, it took years be­fore the court found him to be defini­tively linked to the pornog­ra­phy. Through­out his trial, De Vries shifted the blame to a se­ries of room-mates who had been liv­ing at his home dur­ing the time when he was most ac­tive in his dis­tri­bu­tion.

How­ever, Judge Colin

were nor­malised

La­mont found this claim of a con­spir­acy against De Vries to be un­be­liev­able, con­sid­er­ing the amount of ev­i­dence pro­vided by State in­ves­ti­ga­tors link­ing him to the porn and its dis­tri­bu­tion.

Dur­ing sen­tenc­ing ar­gu­ments ear­lier this week, State prose­cu­tor Maro Pa­pachristo­forou brought child abuse ex­pert Sha­heda Omar to the stand to ex­plain the po­ten­tially dis­as­trous side- ef­fects that child pornog­ra­phy dis­tri­bu­tion could cause.

Dr Omar said as child pornog­ra­phy made its way into the hands of pae­dophiles, it de­sen­si­tised them. The sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage sent out to the pae­dophile was that sex­ual acts with chil­dren were fine, as they were nor­malised by the images. The chil­dren used to cre­ate the pornog­ra­phy would be left with unimag­in­ably deep emo­tional scars.

Pa­pachristo­forou ar­gued the court needed to give a harsh sen­tence to De Vries in line with global stan­dards of sen­tenc­ing for such crimes.

How­ever, Judge La­mont was seem­ingly an­gered by this ar­gu­ment, say­ing he would “not be in­tim­i­dated” by for­eign ju­ris­dic­tion.

Ges­tur­ing to the group of US em­bassy of­fi­cials in the court gallery, the prose­cu­tor ar­gued that if the sen­tence was not strong enough, sim­i­lar cases in­volv­ing for­eign coun­tries would likely see the ac­cused ex­tra­dited and pros­e­cuted over­seas.

But Judge La­mont said that this could be a good thing, as lo­cal au­thor­i­ties would not have to deal with such crim­i­nals.

The judge ques­tioned both pros­e­cu­tion and de­fence on what they be­lieved was an ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence, as there was no de­fin­i­tive min­i­mum sen­tence for the charges in South African leg­is­la­tion.

Pa­pachristo­forou sug­gested 25 to 30 years based on the se­ri­ous­ness of the charges and their num­ber, but de­fence ad­vo­cate Nor­man Makhubela asked the judge to con­sider De Vries’s age, sug­gest­ing 10 years.

Yes­ter­day, Judge La­mont sen­tenced De Vries to 835 years in prison based on the sheer num­ber of counts, but ruled that most of the dozens of 15-year sen­tences would run con­cur­rently, mean­ing an ef­fec­tive 15 years in prison.

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