WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT
Ron Brierley told police officers quizzing him over a cache of images of naked children he had saved to several devices that the pictures were “all perfectly okay” and he had downloaded them because he thought they “looked interesting”.
It can also be revealed that the items he was found with included two written documents relating to unconsensual and illegal sexual acts on minors. The 83-year-old former business high flyer pleaded guilty in Sydney last month to three charges of possessing child sex abuse material. In the wake of the plea, he has since lost his knighthood.
In December 2019, Brierley was at Sydney International Airport and due to fly to Fiji when he was stopped by Australian Border Force staff in the outbound examination area.
Brierley is set to be sentenced in August.
But on Friday afternoon the official Summary of Facts for the case was released by court officials in Sydney.
The document reveals the contents of an interview between a police officer and Brierley after police had located USB devices in his possession which had “a number of images and videos” on them.
“The offender was asked if he wanted to say anything and he said ‘I reckon they’re all, they are perfectly okay,” the document stated.
“He said that they were freely available on the internet and ‘they’ve been approved by various bodies’. He said he had downloaded the images from the internet.”
He was asked about the documents in his possession and he said they were from an internet address and that they related to girls “on their various services”. He said those services allowed him to subscribe and download the images.
“He was asked how old they were and he said “perhaps 8 to 12” and said “some of them are much older”. He said the girls in the images and videos varied from 10 to 17 years. He later said the youngest was “probably about 8” and the oldest “19 or 20”.
“He said he had last looked at the images the night before and looked at them for ‘recreation’. When asked ‘was it for a sexual purpose?’ he said ‘no’. He said he downloaded the images because they ‘looked interesting’.”
On one USB, police found “a Word document with writing detailing a sexual fantasy of sexually abusing an 11-year-old named Amanda and another document called “The Stepfather” detailing the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl”.
The document said Brierley had co-operated fully with the investigation.
When asked about the written stories which were stored as Word documents the Summary of Facts stated he said they had come via correspondence from America and “that he hadn’t received any for a ‘long time’. He said he received those documents by email. He admitted to having read the stories”.
Some of the images had been downloaded the night before they were discovered by authorities, with Brierley saying he had looked at them for “recreation”.
“When asked ‘was it for a sexual purpose?’ he said ‘no’. He said he downloaded the images because they ‘looked interesting’.
In total, 46,795 images found on the devices.
One was deemed ‘category one’: with the summary of facts describing that category as “an image depicting a real prepubescent child and the child is involved in a sex act, witnessing a sex act or the material is focused/concentrated on the anal or genital region of the child”.
The rest deemed ‘category two’; with the summary of facts saying that category could include those exposing genitals, or being in the presence of another person engaged in or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or activity.
Numerous photos featured young girls, some as young as four, in sexualised poses.
One folder – named ‘Dream Models’ – “contained images of a number of female children (of different ethnic backgrounds) who appeared between 5 and 8 years old wearing either underwear or crop top or swimwear”.
The Summary of Facts added: “Many of the images depicted the children sitting, standing or posing in a sexualised way.”
“In one video (the only video located which amounted to child abuse material, and which ran almost 2 hours, there were six young female children wearing swimwear with the video focusing on their breast and genital areas.”
A further search of his Sydney home found thousands more images.
Earlier, a hearing at the Downing Centre court in Sydney heard that Brierley’s sentencing would take place on August 20.
The three charges to which Brierley pleaded was down from the initial 17 charges laid by the prosecution. Throughout the course of the case, the court has heard frustration from his lawyers over the police’s slow work in bringing to court analysis of the images seized.
Brierley’s guilty plea followed his arrest in December 2019 after he was stopped at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport.
He was preparing to catch a flight to Fiji when stopped by Australian Border Force officials, acting on a tip-off. They seized devices from Brierley, which were searched, and were followed by a further search at the nearby Mascot police station and his waterfront mansion.
One charge to which Brierley admitted identified the offending material as including images of children ranging in age from 2 to 15 years.
In the wake of his guilty plea, an inquiry was launched into whether he should be stripped of his knighthood. Before a decision could be made, Brierley voluntarily surrendered it.
Wellington College, which has benefited from Brierley’s philanthropy, removed signage bearing his name from its facilities. Cricket Wellington, where Brierley had been patron, has said it is reviewing his status as a Life Member.
Brierley’s bail has continued following his guilty plea, allowing him relative freedom to stroll nearby Double Bay and to be driven around Sydney’s exclusive eastern suburbs. The Herald recently identified that Brierley still appeared to have internet access with an email emerging from him sent in February 2020.
The email, sent to Wellington College, said: “Ironically, of course, I’m exactly the same person as I have always been.”
Brierley has been a towering figure in Australasian business. His rise began in New Zealand in the 1960s through identifying asset-rich companies that offered low returns to shareholders, staging raids and turning stagnant wealth into shareholder returns.
By the 1980s, Brierley had extended his business to Australia, and then on a global footing through the 1990s and onwards. In 1988, while chairman of the Bank of New Zealand, his contribution to business and philanthropy led to a knighthood.
He retired as a director from BIL in 2001 then from the chairman’s role at Guinness Peat Group in 2010, bowing out as a director in 2015. In June 2019, he retired as chairman of Mercantile Investments, a Sydney-based boutique with $80m invested.
Sexual harm: Where to get help:
• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.
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