A 63-year-old man's years of "sexting" with a teenage girl has ended with his sentencing in the High Court at Christchurch on a charge of blackmail.
Stewart William Hulme, who has worked as a driver and now does lawn mowing, was sentenced to six months of home detention with a year of special release conditions to follow.
He will have to undergo a departmental programme to address sex offending.
He will not be allowed a computer or cellphone in his house at Ferrymead, but his wife of 34 years will be allowed to continue to use her cellphone and a laptop computer there.
Hulme will also have to pay $2000 to the girl he blackmailed, for emotional harm. The relationship was conducted only by text and the two have never met. She was not at court to see him sentenced today.
Prosecutor Dierdre Elsmore said the Crown strongly supported a rehabilitative sentence.
"This is the kind of conduct that can take place under the ambit of a very ordinary life and hidden from others who know him."
Defence counsel Jeff McCall supported a sentence of home detention and rehabilitation. He said Hulme had had "a major fall from grace in the community" and understood that what he had done was criminally and morally wrong.
The text relationship between the two had begun when the girl was 12, but she had said she was 16. McCall said Hulme would never have continued contact if he had known her true age.
Hulme had admitted the charge of blackmail by threatening to put explicit photographs of the girl on Facebook, unless she provided him with more explicit photographs.
Justice Christine French said the relationship began in 2007 when the girl was 12 and Hulme was in his late 50s. She had sent him a text intended for someone else, and he replied, pretending to be aged 21.
They texted for three years and she agreed to become his girlfriend.
She stopped texting when he sent her an explicit photograph, but he eventually persuaded her to send pictures.
These were initially fully clothed pictures but in 2009 he pressured her to provide explicit images.
He wanted a picture of her every day.
In September 2010 he ended the contact, saying he had to work in Australia, but in September 2011 he resumed the contact and asked her for new pictures.
When the girl wanted nothing more to do with him and ignored the messages, he texted that he would put the old pictures on Facebook if she did not send him new photographs. By the time another threat arrived two days later, she had already contacted the police.
Hulme texted that she would be famous, and he would post contact details for her and her parents on Facebook. He used three other cellphones to send her messages purporting to be from people who had seen the Facebook page.
In fact, the photographs no longer existed and there was no Facebook page.
Justice French said the incident had a profound effect on the mental health and emotional well-being of the girl. She had self-harmed and suffered
from insecurity and lack of concentration at school. She had a general lack of self-worth.
The judge said blackmail was a serious crime.
"It is described as a vicious offence because it preys on people's vulnerabilities."
In this case, she accepted Hulme was making a threat he did not intend to carry out.
Hulme has never offended before.
The sentence was reduced for his good record, his guilty plea, and his offer to make amends with a cash payment.