An Auckland man has been jailed for five years after he tried to buy a girl under the age of 7 for sexual exploitation.
Aaron Joseph Hutton hid behind the profile name ‘kiwipedo’ on the secretive Dark Web, where he dealt in child sexual abuse images and tried to buy a young girl.
He thought he was chatting to fellow paedophiles but unbeknownst to him, he was actually talking to agents for the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
On Friday at the Auckland District Court, Judge Allan Roberts sentenced Hutton to five years imprisonment on a charge of attempting to deal in someone under the age of 18 for sexual exploitation and possessing 417 pieces of objectionable material.
Hutton pleaded guilty halfway through his trial in 2020. He stood emotionless in the dock, sometimes shaking his head during the sentencing.
Crown prosecutor Sam McMullan said Hutton had made significant attempts to distance himself from the “very serious offending”.
Hutton told a probation officer and a psychologist he only engaged in the communications because he knew he was talking to law enforcement and decided to “play cat and mouse”.
The defendant claimed he simply received a dump of government documents which included the objectionable material.
McMullan said that couldn’t be true, as Hutton was already active on the Dark Web and had a significant amount of material relating to child sex abuse on his devices.
The lawyer acting on behalf of Hutton said there was no meeting planned and no exchange of money in relation to the charge of attempting to buy the young girl.
She said Hutton still requires some intervention and “some serious support”.
Judge Roberts said there were a number of “alarming factors” in relation to Hutton’s “self-serving statements” to a clinical psychologist.
Hutton said he had no intention to commit a crime and had no paedophilic tendencies.
Judge Roberts said this was “nonsense” and Hutton had a “dreadful purpose” of detaining a young girl to sexually exploit her.
The offending showed Hutton had an “unhealthy interest” in sexual activity in young girls, Judge Roberts said.
The judge said the impact on the children depicted in the collection of images must be “horrific”.
According to court documents released, the DIA believed Hutton used the Dark Web to talk to other paedophiles and attempted to get access to a girl.
The Dark Web is an area of the internet that allows users to operate anonymously. While the Dark Web itself is not illegal, it does lend itself to illegal uses, such as the sale of drugs and weapons.
Hutton’s conversations with other Dark Web users – secret agents with the DIA – show he was looking for someone who could “traffic children internationally” and was willing to pay up to $15,000 USD.
He posted that he was “not wasting time” and was “serious!!!”
The pair then went on to exchange a number of messages over the following six weeks, with Hutton asking how the agent’s “search” was going and offering help.
In one message Hutton said: “As for the trafficking still keen just trying to organise my life so I can accept the item.”
In April 2015, Hutton began talking with another agent who said he had a 7-year-old girl.
There was a plan to meet for Hutton to commit sexual acts on the young girl, Judge Roberts said.
He described the notorious Austrian sex offender Josef Fritzl as his “hero”. Fritzl kept his own daughter as a sex slave for 24 years in a cellar in their garden and fathered seven children with her.
Exactly how the DIA agents were able to identify Hutton as kiwipedo is suppressed.
However, it is reported that the agents used a tracing device that led them to Hutton’s workplace.
In August 2015, police and agents for the DIA executed a search warrant at Hutton’s work.
When agents searched his computer, they found traces of his Dark Web identity.
At his home, agents found drugs and another hard drive containing more than 400 images of children being sexually abused.
Another device contained encrypted folders with the titles “Pure Evil & Darkness” and “Sick & Twisted”.
One of the hard drives contained a folder called “Silk Road” – the same name as an online black market accessible only on the Dark Web.
Silk Road has since been shut down. It allowed users to browse anonymously and purchase weapons, drugs, and even order assassinations.
On Friday, Judge Roberts ordered for the objectionable material to be destroyed.
Tim Houston, the manager of the DIA’s digital child exploitation team, said images of child abuse depict crime scenes and the worst moment of young people’s lives.
“Stopping the distribution of this type of material is critical because every time this material is shared, the children involved in this crime are re‐victimised.
“We are acutely aware that persons consuming and distributing child sexual exploitation material also present significant risks to children in the offline world.”
Police detective sergeant Corey Brown said he hoped Hutton’s sentencing served as a warning to other offenders preying on children online and distributing material.
“It is only a matter of time before you are caught and prosecuted,” Brown said.