Howick man sentenced for child porn

2010-11-26 00:00

HOWICK man Derek Maurice Hills (30), convicted on 24 counts of possessing child pornography, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment yesterday which was suspended on condition that he serves three years under correctional supervision during which he must perform 288 hours of community service (or two hours per week).

He was also ordered to undergo any programmes deemed fit by the correctional supervision officer.

Regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren said if Hills had to be sentenced by any parent it was likely they would impose direct imprisonment on him. However, the court could not take such a blinkered view, he added.

The court regarded possession of child pornography as extremely serious and noted that to produce it children’s bodies and minds were violated and abused to gratify the “sick minds” of adults who exploited them.

It was a crime that invoked the revulsion of society and an overwhelming desire to protect such children.

In assessing a suitable and balanced sentence for Hills, Van Vuuren had regard to the evidence of psychiatrist Dr Brunhilda Grobler, who testified that imprisonment could have dire consequences for Hills, resulting in a complete breakdown, and also expressed the view that he was unlikely to repeat the offences.

She said before his arrest Hills approached her for help and recognised that his actions were wrong and morally repugnant. He felt guilty and ashamed.

Grobler described Hills as a shy man with no self esteem who was very sensitive to criticism and rejection, and who worried excessively.

She testified that he has had suicidal episodes.

Replying to questions by state prosecutor Johan Senekal, Grobler said she believed Hills’s remorse was genuine and did not merely arise from the fact that he is in trouble with the law.

Van Vuuren also had regard to Grobler’s evidence that Hills has already suffered because he has been ostracised by his community and his church.

Van Vuuren issued a warning that just because the court did not deem it appropriate to sentence Hills to direct imprisonment due to “unique circumstances”, it did not mean a jail sentence would not be applicable for others.

Before sentencing the state led the evidence of the investigating officer, Captain Kasavan Gounden, who said child pornography is one of the most difficult crimes to detect as police relied entirely on information.

In his experience many pornographic images of children were in circulation for up to five years before they came to the notice of the police.

There are also not many investigators able to do the work as one had to have a “strong mind”, he added.

He said Hills was caught after a person tipped off the producers of Special Assignment, and in turn police were notified. From the language contained in the e-mails Gounden suspected the pornography may have originated in the U.S. He got in touch with federal agents and as a result of their investigations the producer of the pornographic images, Mark Armstrong, was arrested in April 2009 after it was established he had abused children close to him to produce the pornography involving two boys under 12 years old.

Armstrong is serving a 75-year sentence for his role.

Hills’s attorney, Kevin Morris, said his client had destroyed the child pornography in question along with adult pornographic images on his computer. Hills co-operated fully with police and felt ashamed of what he had done.

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