An Australian court sentenced one of New Zealand’s richest men to 14 months in prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to owning thousands of child sex abuse images.
Ron Brierley, 84, a retired corporate raider worth about 220 million New Zealand dollars ($153 million or €132 million), admitted to having a lifelong obsession with young girls at a Sydney court in April.
What is the case about?
Police arrested Brierley at the Sydney Airport in December 2019 after 40,000 child sex abuse images were found on devices in his airport luggage and at his home in Sydney.
Prosecutors charged him with six counts of possessing child exploitative material.
Brierley pleaded guilty to three of the charges, which led to New South Wales Judge Sarah Hugget cutting his proposed sentence by a quarter.
He faces at least seven months in prison before he can apply for parole.
His lawyers had tried to suggest a community sentence instead, but Hugget said that anything less than prison was “manifestly inadequate.”
His lawyer Penny Musgrave told Reuters news agency that representatives of Brierley intended to appeal the sentence, but did not give further information.
Who is Ron Brierley?
New Zealander Brierley started his corporate career in 1961, using aggressive shareholder strategies to amass a large fortune during the 1970s and 80s.
His investment company, Brierley Investments Ltd., grew into one of New Zealand’s largest corporations.
New Zealand Business publication NBR lists Brierley as one of the country’s 100 wealthiest people. He moved his operations to Australia.
“The offender’s fall from grace has been radical,” said Sydney judge Hugget, as she noted he had contributed to charities in the past.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had called for Brierley to give up his knighthood, which he received in 1988 did end up ceding amid the scandal.
“Offenders like Brierley fuel an abhorrent trade that requires children to be sexually degraded, exploited and violated in front of cameras. His countless girl victims will carry a psychological burden for the rest of their lives,” said Denise Ritchie, a New Zealand campaigner against sex violence of women and girls.