Prominent businessman Ron Brierley has been jailed for possession of child pornography charges.
The 84-year-old was sentenced at Downing Centre District Court in relation to almost 50,000 images found on various devices.
Since he entered guilty pleas his knighthood has been revoked. Numerous charitable organisations have also cut ties with him.
He will be eligible for parole in May 20222.
Ron Brierley Charged with Child Pornography at Airport
Ron Brierley was stopped at Sydney International Airport in late 2019 and charged with child pornography.
While attempting to board a flight to Fiji, Australian Federal Police (AFP) found a cache of child abuse material on the investor's laptop and two USB drives.
Under questioning by police, he said that the material was freely available online and that he found the images "interesting". This conversation was recorded and Mr Brierley went on to say, "I reckon they're all, they are perfectly OK," referring to the child pornography.
While the 84-year-old initially denied viewing the material for a sexual purpose, he later admitted that he had looked at it the night before "for recreation".
Following this, Police executed a search warrant and discovered thousands of images on other devices at his Point Piper residence, a harbourside suburb of Sydney.
The devices contained documents detailing sexual fantasies about the abuse of girls aged nine and 11, which Brierley claimed he was sent from someone in the United States.
In total, there were 46,794 files, however the New South Wales District Court heard there was a significant amount of duplication.
Guilty to Possess Child Abuse Material Charges
The elderly businessman pleaded guilty to three possess child abuse material charges.
He appeared at Downing Centre Court to be sentenced before Judge Sarah Huggett. Her Honour rejected the 84-year-old's suggestion that he mistakenly thought the material was legal.
The court heard that the children depicted in the material were aged between 4 and 15, although most were 11 or 12.
Judge Huggett said there was no suggestion Brierley was part of a "collaborative network" of like-minded individuals.
However, she noted that Brierley, "...disclosed a lifelong obsession and sexual attraction to pre-pubescent girls and stated that he used the images to masturbate".
The financier's criminal lawyer emphasised his client's deteriorating health and that his medical needs would not be able treated adequately in custody.
However, Her Honour found that even allowing for duplication of the images, the quantity of material was "vast" and a sentence served in the community would be inadequate.
Brierley was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment overall, with a non-parole period of 7 months which will expire in May 2022.
Ron Brierley's Fall from Grace
Downing Centre District Court heard that Ron Brierley's fall from grace had been "radical".
Numerous charitable and philanthropic bodies have severed ties with him. Further, his name had been deleted from various patronages and his significant contributions have been "literally expunged" due to the child pornography charges.
Judge Huggett accepted there was ample evidence that Brierley was a polite, respectful, humble man who was remorseful. A psychiatrist report tendered in the proceedings set out that the 84-year-old believed he had overcome his sexual interest in young girls and was now "repulsed by the whole thing".
His company, Brierley Investments, grew to become one of New Zealand's biggest companies after it was founded in 1961 and he was knighted in 1988 for his services to business management and the community.
The Court heard that he had mentored business leaders in Australia and was a former trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. Brierley stepped down from his last role in a listed company in June 2019, citing health issues.
Child Pornography Charges
Section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) sets out that if you have custody and control of child abuse material, you can be guilty of an offence.
Looking at statistics for child abuse material and child pornography charges sentencing over the last 5 years, no person has avoided a criminal conviction for this offence. In relation to the NSW offence, 80% of offenders were sentenced to some form of imprisonment. 64% of offenders received a sentence of full-time imprisonment.
Possess child abuse material charges are extremely serious. The stigma that comes with them is likely to follow a person for the rest of their life.
That is why it is important to obtain advice from a specialist sexual assault lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of these charges. You can read about some recent cases here. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email email@example.com.
Child abuse material is defined as material that depicts or describes in a way reasonable people would consider offensive:
- A person who appears to be a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or
- A person who appears to be a child involved in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- A person who appears to be a child in the presence of another person who is engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- The private parts of a person who appears to be a child which include the genital or anal area, or breasts of a female.
To determine if a reasonable person would consider something offensive, the court will assess:
- The standards of morality and decency generally accepted by reasonable adults,
- The artistic or education relevance of the material,
- The journalistic relevance of the material for a record or report of public interest, and
- The general character of the material
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.