Compiled by Kotie Geldenhuys
One unforeseen consequence of the emergence of the Internet, is the rapid increase in the illicit trade in child sexual abuse images and videos worldwide. Why does this make us upset? Because every child sexual abuse image or video is a crime scene where a child was abused. Although many of the perpetrators of child pornography think that they will get away with their crimes, the net is slowly closing in on them as law enforcement authorities globally are taking hands and use technology to ensure that these perpetrators will be stopped in their tracks and spend many years behind bars.
The case of S v Robert William de Vries is a clear example of how the cooperation between different countries and the use of technology set precedence for future testimony of witnesses in foreign countries in South African courts. After this case was concluded in May 2018, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) incorporated and encouraged the use of social media communication (such as Google Hangout) in cases where witnesses are abroad. Sections 158(3) and 158(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 can be used to apply for a Skype or Google Hangout application. However, a request for mutual legal assistance must also be forwarded to the respective country to allow the witnesses to testify.
A very long investigation
The William de Vries case was the longest running child pornography investigation to date and it took nine years of delayed efforts and complications before the perpetrator was eventually sentenced. This is confirmation that investigating crimes like these is time-consuming and involves many role-players.
The two postal inspectors responded to the adverts and introduced themselves to the distributor as Joe Reis and Simon Derrick. They communicated with the distributor over an extended period of time at the original e-mail address and subsequent e-mail addresses which were provided to them by the distributor. In due course they received instructions as to how the distribution system would work and they placed their orders with the distributor in the names of Joe Reis and Simon Derrick. They provided the distributor with two postal addresses in the USA and made arrangements for payments.
Johan Claassen, a Foreign Service National Investigator from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Pretoria was alerted by his colleagues in New York about the online criminal activities which they had identified. These included five IP (Internet Protocol) addresses related to an individual who may be involved in child pornography. In addition to the IP addresses, the US investigators also noted money transfers to two South Africans (Nkosi, 2018). Johan Claassen subsequently handed the information to the SAPS while the DVDs which Mr Cizin had received were sent to Charl Louw, a forensic IT expert in South Africa, for analysis.