3 May 2013

Gallery owner who preyed on boys jailed

8:13 pm on 3 May 2013

Police are warning child sex offenders that investigators are working with a specialist online exploitation unit to actively seek them out.

The warning follows the jailing for nearly 13 years on Friday of former Wellington art gallery owner Aaron Laurence for sexually preying on young boys.

At the Wellington High Court, Laurence was sentenced on 65 charges, including sexual violation and producing and distributing objectionable material.

The 39-year-old befriended eight young boys between the ages of five and 13, allowing them to use his PlayStation and giving them cigarettes before sexually violating and indecently assaulting them.

Justice Collins said Laurence's recording and online posting of his offending was particularly distressing for his victims.

He jailed Laurence for 12 years and nine months and ordered that he serve at least six-and-a half years of the sentence.

The judge said there were several aggravating features in Laurence's offending, including the premeditation involved, the level of violation, and the vulnerability of those he targeted.

He also ordered the destruction of Laurence's computers, hard drives and other image-storing devices.

The court was told Aaron Laurence is intelligent man who regrets what he has done. His lawyer, Gary Turkington, read from a statement his client had written in which he acknowledged the suffering he had caused and vowed not to reoffend.

But Crown prosecutor Ian Murray said the posting of child abuse images online has caused incalculable harm to Laurence's victims and the effects of his offending aren't over.

"Those images of him sexually of him sexually abusing boys have been distributed onto the internet where they can never be retrieved and where other paedophiles will be obtaining sexual gratification from viewing sexual offending against these victims."