Santa parade organiser convicted

Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014

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The organiser of one of the largest family events in the south has been convicted of possessing child sex abuse images.

Robert John Ashby, 50, who organises the annual Southland Santa Parade, was yesterday sentenced to 400 hours' community work after admitting three charges of possessing objectionable publications, namely digital file images and a video, on May 6 last year. The charges were laid under the Films Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Ashby said last night that the charge was a result of an "innocent mistake".

He said the images were on a pen drive he had picked up when he left previous employment and he had not looked at the drives in the five years they had been in his possession, until last year.

"I certainly admit that the images were on my computer but I had not obtained them through searching for them online. They were there through no intent of my own.

"I am embarrassed for myself and the many people I work closely with in Southland and appreciate the support of my family and friends."

He says that, when he opened the pen drives and realised what was on them, he had tried to delete them from his computer and thought nothing more of it until his computer crashed and he took it to be repaired.

Ashby appeared before Judge Michael Turner in the Invercargill District Court.

Ashby's lawyer, Bill Dawkins, applied for final name suppression, which was opposed by police and dismissed by the judge.

The judge said Ashby took his laptop in to be serviced and a technician discovered 54 images and one video clip of child sex abuse. Most of the images involved young girls who were predominantly naked, he said.

Ashby admitted to police he had put them on to his computer and copied them from a memory stick he found. He thought they had been deleted, the judge said.

Dawkins said Ashby accepted he was in possession of the material and had viewed it but genuinely believed he had deleted it.

He was in possession of the material for a short time, he said.

He was extremely embarrassed and ashamed.

The judge accepted his remorse was genuine.

The court was told police found Ashby had used websites to search for objectionable material between June 2012 and May 2013.

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