A child advocacy group says the sentence given to multi-millionaire sexual offender Martin Henry Lawes will act as a firm deterrent to others.
Denise Ritchie, a barrister and founder member of Stop Demand, said she was impressed with the sentencing yesterday of Auckland businessman Martin Lawes, who was arrested after an international operation in the Philippines broke up a child sex ring.
Lawes, a former Takapuna Community Board chair and Justice of the Peace, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for three charges of dealing with children for sexual exploitation and importing and possessing pictures and videos of children being sexually abused.
In sentencing Justice Edwin David Wylie said he was not persuaded Lawes had shown any real remorse.
“The fact that at his age he has been sent to prison, that’s a strong signal to others” – Denise Ritchie, Stop Demand
The 75-year-old had paid parents in the Philippines to sexually abuse their children while he sat in his Takapuna home and watched the live-streamed videos as he directed the children and parents on what to do.
Police found almost 300 videos and images of children on Lawes’ home computers.
Ms Ritchie told Morning Report the case would make those who believed they could act with impunity using false aliases on the internet to think again.
She said there had been a fear the sentence could have been reduced to two years imprisonment, given Lawes’ age.
“The last thing we wanted to see was him being in a position to apply for home detention,” she said.
“So the fact that at his age he has been sent to prison, that’s a strong signal to others.”
Although she was impressed with Justice Wylie’s treatment of the case, she said the three months taken off Lawes’ sentence after he may have given $45,000 to charities had “favoured people who had means”.
Ms Richie said New Zealand child protection agencies were getting better at catching child sex predators and that the case was a good example of international agencies collaborating to bring offenders to justice.