Howick man admits to porn

2010-06-23 00:00

A 30-YEAR-OLD man from Howick, Derek Maurice Hills, pleaded guilty and was convicted in the regional court yesterday of 24 counts of being in possession of child pornography last December.

He is due to be sentenced on July 22.

The plea did not elaborate on the origins of the pornograhic images found on Hills’s computer on December 2 last year, but The Witness learnt that they were allegedly distributed via e-mail by an American man, Mark Armstrong (40) of Scottburg, Indiana.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release posted on the Internet by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Indianapolis, Armstrong was sentenced to 75 years in prison by U.S. District Chief Judge David Hamilton on November 23, 2009 in New Albany after he pleaded guilty to three charges of producing child pornography.

In his plea before regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren yesterday, Hills admitted that on December 2 last year he unlawfully and intentionally possessed a “film/publication … visual presentations containing 24 images of child pornography”.

He said he was aware at all times that his actions were wrongful and intentional.

“To elaborate, I remember receiving the images in a zip file and noticed that the images were child pornography. I was aware that this was wrong. A certain Michael Dark, whom I never met, requested me to forward the said images to him, which I did. I was ashamed to get involved in this, which feeling still remains with me to this day.”

Hills said he is undergoing treatment with a psychiatrist as well as receiving “pastoral guidance”.

“I am extremely remorseful for what I have done and beg the court’s mercy when imposing sentence on me,” he said.

The charge sheet lists a total of 24 images depicting a boy (said to be “clearly” under 12 years of age) engaged in a variety of sexual acts.

According to the FBI, the investigation into Armstrong’s activities was launched on March 9 last year when South African investigators uncovered e-mails being exchanged “between three individuals” that contained images of children engaging in sexually explicit behaviour with adults, one of whom proved to be Armstrong.

“On April 2, 2009, a search warrant was executed on Mark Armstrong’s residence. Armstrong waived his rights and told investigators that he had been molesting John Doe 1, a minor male relative less than 12 years of age, and had produced and disseminated images of that conduct, including images of sexual acts and conduct,” the press release states.

Armstrong further admitted producing similar images of another male child also under 12, referred to as “John Doe 2” in the statement.

“Armstrong admitted producing each of the images discovered in South Africa, and identified the child depicted as John Doe 1 and the adult depicted as himself. He admitted to producing the images with a digital camera, and exchanging them with individuals he had met online for nude images of other minors. Armstrong recalled sending sexually explicit images of John Doe 1 to individuals Armstrong believed to be in South Africa and in Mexico. Armstrong stated that in total he produced approximately 50 images of sexually explicit conduct involving John Does 1 and 2,” the press release said.

The Witness has established that Hills was the only recipient of the images from Armstrong, who was traced by the authorities in South Africa.

The person, Michael Dark, to whom Hills admitted he forwarded the images, is not thought to be in this country.

* In South Africa the Films and Publications Act provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for any child pornography offence.

Failure to report knowledge or suspicion of the commission of any child pornography offence is also a criminal offence.

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