A Darwin man has been sentenced to six months jail after being found in possession of 240 child abuse images and videos involving children as young as six.
Wayne Kunoth, 47, was facing maximum penalties of 30 years in prison this week as he pleaded guilty to two separate charges related to accessing and possessing child abuse material.
Australian Federal Police received a number of referrals from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children last year in relation to “suspicious” social media accounts held in Kunoth’s name.
Police searched the man’s unit in Palmerston on October 22, last year and found numerous open webpages depicting child abuse on his phone.
Each of the pages contained multiple thumbnail images with links to video files.
The court heard some of the material depicted sexual activity between children and between adults and children.
The material predominantly depicted female children between the ages of eight and 12, but some were found to involve children as young as six.
Police seized a mobile phone Kunoth was carrying at the time and a laptop computer found in his bedroom.
A further examination of the phone found Kunoth had downloaded videos of child abuse material categorised in accordance with the Australian National Victim Identification Library – a reference library of Child Exploitation Material used as a tracking tool.
Police found a number of search terms used online on Kunoth’s laptop.
The download history on his laptop showed between July 1, 2019 and August 16, 2019 Kunoth had downloaded nine files of child abuse material and saved them in a folder titled “Wayne01/Downloads.”
“[The] sexual offending of the type in which you have engaged is both serious and repugnant,” Chief Justice Michael Grant said in handing down his sentence in the NT Supreme Court on Friday.
“Of those files in your possession and that you accessed using the internet… were of a most depraved kind depicting sexual activity between children and adults, bestiality and some images involving sadism.”
Court hears of long criminal history involving “bashing women” and a traumatic childhood
Chief Justice Grant said alcohol abuse and a traumatic childhood marred by violence were likely contributors to Kunoth’s procurement and possession of child abuse material.
The court heard Kunoth was arrested by NT Police on October 22, 2019. He appeared in Darwin Local Court the next day and was released on bail, but that bail was breached a number of times.
Community corrections staff made numerous attempts to get Kuntoth to an Alcohol and Other Drug counselling service this year.
Chief Justice Grant said Kunoth’s criminal history is “suggestive to me of a longstanding problem with alcohol”.
“Although you have no previous convictions relating to child abuse material, you have a long criminal history which involves repeated offences of violence against women,” he said.
“You were, by your own admission, a ‘woman-basher’ and known as such in the community.
“I am told in the report that you were exposed to domestic violence between your mother and father as a child and you were also subjected to violence going beyond ordinary corporal punishment at the hands of your father.”
Sentence to send a message
The maximum penalty for possession of child abuse material was increased from 10 years to 15 years in 2010.
The criminal code was again amended in 2019 to recognise the harm inflicted on children involved in the making of child abuse material.
“Those amendments and increases in penalty also recognise that offending involving child abuse material occurs on an international level and is becoming increasingly prevalent with the advent of the internet,” Chief Justice Grant said.
“Such offending is difficult to detect given the anonymity which that infrastructure provides.”
He said despite there being no evidence the material was destined for distribution, “the courts must send a message to the community that the possession of child pornography will be punished severely.”
“Perpetrators must be dissuaded from attempting to rationalise it as some sort of normal sexual preference,” he said.
“The harm caused by offenders like you, Mr Kunoth, is that young children are used by the manufacturers of child abuse material to satisfy the demand which people like you create.
“In assessing the gravity of your offending and the appropriate sentence, I must necessarily take into account that children have been harmed to satisfy the base and perverse desires of people like you.
“Those children are vulnerable and not in a position to protect themselves.”
Kunoth was sentenced to six months jail.