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‘I was searching for answers to my own rape’

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Nearly 20 000 images and 1 000 videos were found on child porn convict’s computer.

Durban – A Hillary man says he downloaded nearly 20 000 images and 1 000 videos depicting child pornography to get answers to his own abuse as a child.

Hillary resident Gert Harmzen was arrested by Bellair SAPS and the Police Crime Intelligence Cybercrime Investigations Unit in June last year, after receiving a tip-off.

The shocked police officers found 19305 images and 933 videos containing images of child porn, as well as 203 incomplete downloaded images on a laptop, when they raided his home.

The 55-year-old Harmzen was found guilty last month of being in possession of child pornography and contravening the Film and Publications Act.

On Friday, during argument for sentencing, the pain and emotional suffering children endure through child pornography was laid bare before the Durban Regional Court.

According to his statement, read out to the court, Harmzen was raped and a victim of sexual abuse when he was 5.

He asked himself why his parents had not found out what had happened to him and thought they were naive or not good parents. He then decided to find answers to the problems of his own childhood, and to find peace, by downloading images, he said.

According to social worker Nqobile Luthuli’s psychosocial report, Harmzen was the youngest of nine children, and despite his father’s death when he was 8, his family maintained a strong bond. He had no children. His fiancée of 20 years and two other people interviewed described Harmzen as generous, affectionate, reliable and a religious individual. Harmzen, a supervisor before being retrenched in 2016, was godfather to his nephew’s daughter and many other children in the family.

Those interviewed were shaken by his misconduct and criminal acts.

“Imprisonment will offer him the opportunity to reflect on the wrongfulness of his actions,” Luthuli advised.

Former Childline KZN director DrJoan van Niekerk, now chairperson of the SA Law Reform Commission Project Committee on Child Pornography, reported to the court on issues

emanating from the use of child pornography.

She told magistrate Melanie de Jager she had viewed the images Harmzen downloaded.

“Behind the pictures that the accused in this matter has downloaded and stored on his computer, are real children involved in erotic poses, vaginal, anal or oral penetration and, in a few instances, bestiality and bondage.”

Van Niekerk said watching child sexual abuse material changed the viewer’s emotional and psychological functioning, and there was a risk of progression from viewing material to acting this out on children. She said Harmzen’s behaviour of collecting and viewing child sexual abuse material extended over 14 years, without seeking help for his childhood abuse.

“He would have realised that this route of abuse resolution was not effective and would have sought other assistance. Given the number and content of the images he collected, it appears he may have developed a sexual addiction to these images,” she said.

Senior prosecutor Shayna Naidoo said Harmzen had smiled throughout Van Niekerk’s testimony, especially when she mentioned the word “penetration”.

She argued for a 10-year direct imprisonment sentence, while the defence requested a non-custodial sentence.

“How, for purposes of research, does he seek to get answers to his own abuse when he accesses folders like these?” Naidoo argued.

She said Harmzen had shown no remorse and “had it not been for the police finding and stopping him in his tracks, he would have continued”.

Sentence will be handed down later this month.

Daily News