Plett man's jail term for child porn reduced from 15 years to 10 years

2019-05-03 11:06

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A Plettenberg Bay computer engineer has successfully appealed his 15-year jail term on 18 644 counts of possession of child pornography, with the Western Cape High Court reducing it on Friday to 10 years.

William Beale, in his early 40s, was sentenced in the Thembalethu Regional Court in November 2017 after pleading guilty following his arrest for being part of an international syndicate, according to News24.

He was found in possession of thousands of horrific images, as well as dagga.

Beale, who was arrested in January 2015, initially faced 107 893 charges. He pleaded guilty and the State withdrew the remaining charges.

On Friday, Judge Elize Steyn and acting Judge Fred Sievers agreed that the numerous counts should be taken together for the purpose of the sentence but that 10 years was more appropriate and proportionate given different factors.

"The disparity is such that this court is entitled and obliged to interfere," she said.

The judges considered the sentences in comparable matters, the seriousness of the crimes, Beale's personal circumstances, the purposes of sentence, the balancing of mitigating and aggravating circumstances, and the interests of the community, children and their protection.

They said the numerous aggravating circumstances in the matter were obvious.

Dark web

"He regarded the downloading from the 'dark web' of the pornographic images as a challenge and appeared to be proud of the fact that he was able to access locked sites, which he could only do by himself first supplying images of a shocking nature, to show that he could be trusted," the judgment read.

"We did not view the images, but relying on the descriptions of the different images in the files before us, many images and videos can only be described as abhorrent, shocking and disgusting, including pornography of a sexual nature perpetrated, as noted, on babies, toddlers and young children."

Steyn and Sievers noted that Beale's sentence was one of the highest imposed in South Africa on charges related to possession of child pornography to date.

Beale's defence team had submitted during the appeal hearing that while possession was a serious crime, it was the "least serious" of the categories set out in the Films and Publications Act.

The appeal court considered an element of mercy, in view of the history of abuse Beale suffered when he was younger.

Abuse

Two psychologists agreed during court proceedings that Beale was subjected to severe emotional, sexual and physical abuse, which may have played a role in the development of deviant sexual interests.

They also agreed he has a paedophilic disorder, strong antisocial personality traits and no known history of contact offences. The one was of the opinion that he had a low risk of re-offending, while the other felt there was a medium risk.

"The deviant behaviour by the appellant demonstrates the permanent emotional scars left on an individual following abuse, although [the] appellant downplayed the effect on himself," the judges noted.

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