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Bay of Plenty pilot Ryan Mackey has been imprisoned for downloading and distributing child sex abuse content online. Stock / 123RF

Warning: This story contains references to child abuse and exploitation which may be distressing to some readers.

A Kiwi pilot caught with more than 1600 objectionable images on his smartphone came to the attention of American authorities after he uploaded videos of children being abused to a social media messaging platform.

The content sharing raised red flags with the United States-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, with the detail of the offending sent to NZ officials who then raided his property.

Today, 42-year-old Ryan Keith Mackey of Pāpāmoa Beach was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after the subsequent investigation by the New Zealand Customs Service saw him convicted on six charges of possession, distribution, and exportation of child sex content.

According to the statement of facts, in December 2019 Mackey created an online social media profile under the name ‘Bob H’. That account was used in April 2021 to both upload and download child exploitation images and videos.

Vivid descriptions of the content were included in court documents obtained by Open Justice.

Soon after finding he had shared the content, the social media platform being used by Mackey alerted US authorities to his offending.

Those authorities forwarded the details of that investigation to the New Zealand Customs Service in May 2021. The account holder was traced to a Pāpāmoa address.

On July 21, New Zealand Police raided the property, arresting Mackey at the scene. Four devices were seized, including two iPhones, a laptop, and an external hard drive.

One of the iPhones contained 1639 files deemed objectionable, some of which included a child porn “series” well known to authorities around the world.

Chat logs were also discovered from a program downloaded on his computer, showing Mackey attempting to solicit child pornography from other users.

The 42-year-old appeared for sentencing at the Tauranga District Court today after pleading guilty to six charges in February.

Dressed in shorts and a polar-fleece jumper, a visibly-sombre Mackey entered the courtroom, supported by his family.

Defence lawyer Craig Tuck said his client had no previous record of offending, held down a professional job, and was otherwise an upstanding citizen.

The offending came after a difficult period in Mackey’s life, with mental health issues playing a role in the decision to view and distribute the content, Tuck said.

The lawyer also sought a significant number of discounts for his client, in an attempt to reduce the starting point of five years and six months to under two years, which would allow Judge Ingram to consider a sentence of home detention.

But the judge disagreed, saying the offending was too serious to consider a sentence of anything other than prison time. However, a number of discounts to the starting point were warranted.

Those discounts included 25 per cent for a guilty plea, and two reductions of 10 per cent for previous good character and the content of a pre-sentence report respectively.

Two 5 per cent discounts were also ordered for co-operation with authorities and remorse.

But regardless of the discounts, Judge Ingram made his view on the offending clear.

“This material is so dangerous, so insidious, and so damaging to everybody involved that, in my view, the only appropriate sentence for distribution of images of this nature is a term of imprisonment – bar none.

“A man of your background and ability would have known right from the start that you should not be doing this.”

The judge acknowledged the steps Mackey had taken towards rehabilitation – steps that could reflect well upon an eventual Parole Board application, Judge Ingram said.

Mackey was sentenced to a total of 30 months’ imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 10 months. He is also to be added to the Child Sex Offender Register.

An order for the destruction of the four seized devices was also made.

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