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Northland man jailed for sexually exploiting children

12.19pm 09 December 2020 | News

Kerikeri man sentenced in the Whangarei High Court today in relation to dozens of charges, including sexual offending involving young children.

Customs and New Zealand Police have welcomed today’s sentencing of a 34-year-old Kerikeri man in the Whangarei High Court to 15 years and five months’ imprisonment, with a minimum of eight years non-parole in relation to dozens of charges, including sexual offending involving young children.

Brent James Ruddell was convicted on more than 70 Police and Customs charges relating to exporting, possessing and distributing objectionable publications, abduction for sex, unlawful sexual connection and sexual conduct with children, as well as minor drug-related charges.

Operation Blackhawk commenced when Customs began investigating a New Zealander who had exported – more commonly known as uploaded – child sexual exploitation images onto a popular social media platform. Customs investigators linked this to Ruddell’s home address, arresting him and seizing his electronic devices for forensic examination in November 2019.

Customs forensics specialists found 1,191 child sexual exploitation images and videos on the seized phones and laptop, and identified evidence that suggested Ruddell had produced a number of videos and photos himself.

Taskforce Ruru – which consists of specialists from Customs, Police and Internal Affairs – was immediately stood up to identify the victims. Over the course of a week, these investigators worked full-time on the case and identified five child victims.

These details were passed onto Northland Police to ensure those children were safeguarded. As a result, Northland Police executed a second search warrant in December 2019, with support from Taskforce Ruru investigators, arresting the man again for the new charges.

Simon Peterson, Chief Customs Officer - Child Exploitation Operations Team, says identifying and protecting children is always the number one priority for the law enforcement agencies that investigate this type of horrendous crime.

“Sadly, we’re seeing that there is an increasing amount of crossover between those who deal in child sexual abuse material, and those who physically offend against children.

“Today’s sentencing is further evidence of the strength of a joint-agency approach to stopping child sexual exploitation, and increasing the safety of victims and our communities.

“Child sexual exploitation images and videos are often crime scenes of abuse occurring at the time, sometimes in the most horrible ways imaginable. It’s therefore inaccurate and demeaning to refer to such publications as child pornography, as these children are re-victimised every time the images or videos of their abuse are viewed,” says Mr Peterson.

Detective Inspector Rhys Johnston from Northland Police says Ruddell upended the lives of several families through his shocking offending, which has left lasting impacts on his victims and their families.

“The nature of offending by this predator was horrific and our absolute priority was identifying the children involved as quickly as possible.

“Our highly motivated Northland Child Protection Team worked swiftly to ensure that the victims involved were safe from future abuse and that they and their families were provided with all available support and welfare.

“This case serves as a warning to child sex offenders that there is a highly effective international network that New Zealand is well-connected to, to detect offenders trading objectionable material online. Through our multi-agency approach with our partners, we are able to hold these offenders to account and get justice for our innocent victims,” says Detective Inspector Johnston.

If you have concerns or suspicions about an individual who may be trading in or producing child sexual abuse images or videos, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

If you are, or know of, someone who is at risk or being sexually abused, contact Police immediately.