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Man who photographed young children naked in public facility changing rooms sentenced to four years in prison

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The man who covertly photographed children in the changing rooms of a public sports facility was denied permanent name suppression, but was granted interim suppression when his lawyer indicated an appeal. Photo / Tracy Neal

A man who hid in the changing rooms of three different recreational facilities and covertly took photos of naked children in two of them has been sent to prison for four years.

Five years after his first offence he was finally caught after an associate to whom he’d given his computer for repairs handed police a copy of files showing pictures of naked children.

The 48-year-old was sentenced in the Nelson District Court today on four charges of doing an indecent act, two of which were representative charges, and three charges of knowingly possessing an objectionable publication.

The offending happened at public recreational facilities across the top of the South Island.

He was denied permanent name suppression, in part because of the public right to know, but an interim order was imposed when his lawyer indicated an appeal was possible.

The parents of one of the victims told the court today their child was just 10 at the time. Until then, they had never had a reason to be scared, but the effects of the man’s offending had been profound.

His offending dates back to December 2018 when he photographed young girls, aged between six and 10 at one facility.

Many of the victims remain unknown and were likely unaware of what had happened.

The following month in January 2019 he was in the changing rooms of the other complex when he took a series of 18 photos of naked boys aged between 8-10 as they were getting changed.

In the same month, he covertly photographed two young girls, aged 5 and 7, as they sat at a table opposite him at a restaurant.

In October 2019 an adult who regularly used the facility where the boys were photographed noticed over several weeks that the defendant, on about six occasions, was acting strangely in the male changing rooms.

He noticed him in a shower cubicle, peeking out of a crack in the door as people walked past.

He’d then “pop out” of the cubicle when a young child walked past but if an adult walked past he’d close the door and remain inside the cubicle.

On one occasion he noticed the man in the main part of the changing room, naked except for a towel wrapped around his lower torso.

He then turned to face a group of unaccompanied children, aged between 5 and 6 years old, and exposed himself while smiling.

The man who witnessed it reported it to staff but because English was his second language he had difficulties communicating what he saw. The manager of the facility reported the matter to the police.

A few weeks later the witness was back at the pool and was asked by a staff member to go into the changing rooms and identify if the man there was the same as who he’d reported earlier.

He confirmed it was the same man and staff called the police. The defendant told them he would peek out of the cubicle to “check whether anyone was waiting to use the shower”.

His explanation for exposing himself was that he had left the shower to get his drink which he had left on the shelf and “the children may have seen him walk back to the shower naked”.

He told police he was “rarely naked inside the changing room” but because it was a changing room “a level of nudity was expected”.

He was then trespassed from the complex.

In November 2021 the defendant was at yet another recreational facility in a different town in the top of the South Island and entered a changing room at the same time as two children aged 10 and 11.

He removed his clothing completely and walked across the changing room to the shower cubicle where the children were also showering.

When they were back in the changing room, the man left the cubicle he was in, sat down on a bench near the children, began to apply soap to his body, and masturbated.

There was no one else in the room.

He later told police he had no sexual interest in the children, who were the complainants in the matter.

Judge Tony Zohrab said while sentencing him that while the facts indicated he knew what he was doing was wrong, he still denied he had a sexual interest in children.

It was October 2021, when his associate found multiple photos of naked children on the man’s computer. However, it wasn’t until March 2023 that the associate reported the find to the police and handed over a copied version of the files saved on a storage device.

Police found six Category A images, around 40 Category B images and more than 550 Category C images.

Police also found a series of 73 photos and videos taken by the defendant between February and November 2018 of two young girls aged between 6 and 10.

He later admitted having images of naked children on electronic devices but did not believe they were “objectionable”.

Crown prosecutor Jeremy Cameron said the offending had been habitual and had escalated in seriousness, and had happened against a backdrop of previous proven offending.

Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.

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