Michael Beer appeared in the North Shore District Court today on two representative charges of possession of objectionable images and distribution of objectionable publications.
The charges were the result of a joint six month investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs, Customs and police resulting in the arrest of four other New Zealanders and two men living in Britain.
Judge Lawrence Hinton said the charges related to more than 200 images, and six videos some of which were "so depraved it's unbelievable".
But Beer's rehabilitation and remorse, including an early guilty plea, had "elevated" him out of a prison sentence, the judge said, sentencing him to one year's home detention and 400 hours community work.
Normally, this is where I would go ballistic; however, I am convinced that those child porn viewers who readily confess and are genuinely remorseful, should be treated much more gently than those who see nothing wrong with what they are doing. I believe that they are much more likely to reform and not be a threat to personally do harm to children.
Forensic examination showed he'd used a tablet, hard-drive, computer and television at his home to view and distribute the images, and belonged to websites primarily devoted to sharing images of child sex abuse, many of which Beer had written graphic comments on.
According to the summary of facts many of the images involved young girls being abused by adult men.
Judge Hinton said that of the 1700 files recovered, 272 objectionable still images and six videos were distributed.
He described the offending as "repulsive and perverted and sinister".
Beer's lawyer John Munro said that at the time of the offending his client was recovering from medical issues, and was feeling "isolated" when he began sharing the images.
He was caught after a Department of Internal Affairs investigator posed as an offender and was sent images by Beer online.
Munro said his client had taken significant rehabilitative steps before he'd even been charged, including taking part in a sex offender programme over the past 18 months.
Beer was supported in court by his two daughters, son-in-law and granddaughter and was "embarrassed" by his crimes.
A psychiatrist's report said he posed a low risk of reoffending, appeared genuinely remorseful for his offending, and wanted to take full responsibility for his actions.
Munro submitted home detention was an appropriate punitive sentence that would allow Beer to continue with his rehabilitative work and Judge Hinton, after taking a day's adjournment to consider the argument, agreed.
"I have the view that the most serious steps you have taken . . . elevate you just out of the imprisonment category," he said.
"That's not to say your offending wasn't serious and didn't involve deplorable, heinous, outrageous items."
Beer was ordered not to own, possess or operate a computer or any electronic device capable of internet access without permission from a probation officer, and to have no contact with a person under the age of 16, unless under the direct supervision of or approval by a probation officer.