Court sickened by details of what child porn victims had to endure

Report by: YOLANDÉ STANDER

Gasps echoed through the Knysna Regional Court on Friday as horrific details about the thousands of images found in the possession of a Plettenberg Bay computer engineer was revealed when sentencing in the matter, which has been dragging on for more than two years, got underway - YOLANDÉ STANDER reports

WILLIAM Beale, 39, in February pleaded guilty to about 19,000 charges of possession of child pornography after his high-profile arrest in January 2015.

He was the first South African to have been arrested as part of Operation Cloud 9 - an operation involving South African and Belgian police - which is responsible for cracking down on an international child pornography network.

The ring is linked to a cyber meeting space for paedophiles whose fetishes seem to be the sexual abuse of babies and young children. Some of the images found included the torture and murder of babies as young as only a few days old.

When Beale was arrested police found sections of files containing thousands of videos and violent assaults as well as internet addresses of more than 300 alleged paedophiles.

As sentencing proceedings started on Friday, Magistrate Eugenia Jacobs said that because of the sensitive nature of the images in question, these could not be discussed in an open court. She therefore, with the relevant role-players, viewed a “sample” of the images in her chambers.

She said these could be divided into various categories and included images of infants, toddlers, and teenagers and varied in acts from the bondage and rape of babies to other deviant sexual acts being performed on children.

Even the categories of these crimes depicted in the images are too horrific to publish.

“We are shocked to the core hearing the horrific details of what the victims in those images had to endure. It is absolutely sickening,” said Women and Men Against Child Abuse Western Cape spokesperson Joanne Barrett.

Among the others who gathered in the gallery were representatives of local anti-child abuse organisation The Green Hearts, who said they were disappointed that the case had been postponed once again.

Among the witnesses who testified as part of sentencing proceedings was George clinical psychologist Tjaart van der Walt, who was called in mitigation of sentence.

Van der Walt testified that Beale had suffered severe abuse - sexual, physical, and psychological - as a child and that this was a contributing factor to developing deviant sexual interests.

He added that after consulting with Beale, it became apparent that he suffered from several disorders including paedophilia and, among others, strong anti-social behavioural traits.

Van der Walt said while there was no cure for paedophilia and no “best practice” treatment for it, research had shown that “hands-off online” offenders - which did not include physical abuse of children - had a low likelihood of reoffending or developing their behaviour into “contact” crimes.

He also testified that, to his knowledge, there was no evidence that Beale had groomed any child for abuse and that his viewing of child pornography was like an addiction.

“He admitted that he would often binge watch for up to eight hours at a time,” Van der Walt said.

Van der Walt added that while there was no treatment available for someone like Beale, there were programmes that he could participate in to address the behaviour.

He noted that if Beale would undergo the same treatment, the outcome would be the same whether he was imprisoned or placed under correctional supervision.

A correctional services report handed in as evidence during court proceedings on Friday suggested that Beale was a candidate for correctional supervision, however prosecutor Gerda Marx pointed out that there was no monitoring programme in place in terms of Beale’s online activity.

Correctional supervision only comprises several visits, including to the convicted person’s home and work.

The matter was postponed to October 4 for the continuation of sentencing when the state is expected to cross-examine Van der Walt and call another expert witness.

Garden Route Media