Press Release – New Zealand Customs Service
An Auckland man was today sentenced in the Manukau District Court to 20 months’ imprisonment for importing and possessing 14,000 images and 700 movies depicting child sexual abuse, following a Customs prosecution.
During sentencing, Judge Johns emphasised that this type of offending involves real victims, some of who have suffered horrific sexual abuse. She said this exploitation is then perpetuated as the images and videos of the children’s abuse are spread via the internet.
Her honour stressed that there is a strong need to deter and denounce this kind of offending, and that only a sentence of imprisonment was appropriate in this case.
Michael Ransfield, 58, had pleaded guilty to 10 charges of importing objectionable publications prohibited under the Customs and Excise Act, and 30 charges of possessing objectionable publication, prohibited under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993. Each of these offences carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
Customs Acting Group Manager Investigations and Response, Chris Howley, is pleased with the sentencing result.
“The online and border movement of child sexual abuse material is a grim reality. Customs places high priority on this type of offending and we vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals involved in importing, exporting, possessing, and trading child objectionable material,” Mr Howley said.
“Each image or video depicting child sexual exploitation is actually a crime scene, and Customs works actively with various local and international agencies to identify these child victims.”
“The Ransfield case is a good example of the local and international relationships Customs has with other agencies also committed to combating the online trading of child sexual abuse material.”
In 2011, Customs received information that a US-hosted website, which appeared to offer online access to images depicting child sexual abuse, had been accessed by a New Zealander. Further investigations by Customs identified Ransfield, leading to a search warrant of his residence where he was questioned and arrested.
Forensic examination of his electronic devices revealed 14,000 images and 700 movie files that had been downloaded over a period of four years, with the last download occurring only hours before Customs executed the search warrant. The child victims were aged between one and fourteen years old, and the images included depiction of extreme abuse.
• Media are urged to use the terminology ‘child sexual abuse images’ or ‘child objectionable material’, and not ‘child pornography’ as the use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ actually downplays child sex abuse:
o It indicates legitimacy and compliance on the victim’s part and therefore suggests legality on the abuser’s part
o It conjures up images of children posing in ‘provocative’ positions, rather than the image capturing the suffering of horrific abuse
o Every publication of these images promotes the sexual exploitation of children and young people and often portrays actual child abuse occurring at the time. This is not pornography.
• Objectionable material is prohibited in New Zealand under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 and the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.
• Objectionable material or publication includes, but is not limited to, films, videos, computer games, DVDs, CD-ROMs, books, posters, music recordings, magazines, photographs, paintings, t-shirts and computer files.
• Material or a publication is classified as objectionable if it describes, depicts, expresses or deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.
• Under s 209(1)(A) & (5) Customs & Excise Act 1996, individuals found to have been knowingly concerned in the importation or exportation of objectionable material can face up to five years’ imprisonment. There are similar and more stringent penalties under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 for additional relevant offending of this type.