WARNING: This story contains descriptions and language associated with child sex offending.
When a man known on the dark web as "Kiwipedo" was sent to prison last January for attempting to purchase a child to sexually abuse, it was supposed to be the end of a court case that had spanned years.
But after a year behind bars, Aaron Joseph Hutton, 37, returned to the Auckland District Court on Monday via audio-video feed, setting the groundwork for a new sentencing hearing.
Hutton's five-year term was tossed in July after High Court Justice Timothy Brewer determined that the previous sentencing hearing was improperly conducted. It was determined that the district court judge who oversaw the sentencing should have ordered a disputed-facts hearing after realising the Crown and the defence had a disagreement over the summary of facts presented to him.
A new sentencing date has not yet been set.
Police first started tracking a person with the username Kiwipedo in 2014, thanks to an undercover operation on the dark web conducted by Australian law enforcement. His computer was traced to an Auckland workplace in 2015, and both the workplace and his home were searched by New Zealand authorities.
During Hutton's July 2020 trial, which was cut short after he entered guilty pleas, a police officer described the dark web as an encrypted area of the internet where anonymous users can find drugs, guns and child exploitation material.
"It's the worst of humanity that you see," the officer testified.
Not realising he was speaking to undercover law enforcement officers in Australia, Kiwipedo described notorious Austrian paedophile Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a basement for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, as a "hero", authorities alleged.
The Department of Internal Affairs was alerted, and undercover officers from New Zealand then contacted him on the dark web. It was with New Zealand officers that he started asking about international child trafficking and said he would pay up to $15,000 in cash or in Bitcoin for a child under 7.
Hutton initially stood trial for two charges of attempting to deal with a young person for sexual exploitation, one charge of attempted indecent act on a child and 15 charges of possession of objectionable publications.
As part of his plea agreement, Hutton admitted that from January to February 2015 he attempted to enter a deal involving the sexual exploitation of a girl under the age of 7. He also pleaded guilty to one representative charge of possession of 417 objectionable images of children being sexually abused.
Other charges were withdrawn by the Crown, including allegations from April 2015 involving another fictitious child.
Aaron Joseph Hutton, 36, pictured at his sentencing on January 22, 2021, in the Auckland District Court. Photo / Alex Burton
The Crown said the agreement included a stipulation that the summary of facts would also contain the withdrawn charges so that Auckland District Court Judge Allan Roberts could have context for the remaining charges. Hutton's lawyer, however, disagreed that was the case.
Judge Roberts, who had scheduled the sentencing hearing for his last day on the bench, decided to accept the summary of facts as it was.
"The defence takes issue with the following material," he noted. "I consider, however, that it does serve to paint a full picture of exactly what it was you were looking for."
During the original sentencing hearing, Judge Robert also characterised as "nonsense" the suggestion that Hutton only aimed to waste police time and was never going to go through with child sex trafficking.
"Your intended victim was 3," the judge said. "She was to become a sex slave."
During a brief hearing on Monday, Hutton appeared before a different district court judge.
Judge Steve Bonnar ordered him to return to court next month for a one-hour hearing to determine the parameters for his yet-to-be-scheduled re-sentencing.
Until then, the judge said, he will remain in custody.
- by Craig Kapitan, NZ Herald