William Beale, 38, leaves court during an earlier appearance. Picture: Yolandé Stander

Plettenberg Bay - Horrific details about thousands of images found in a Plettenberg Bay computer engineer's possession came to light as sentencing proceedings in the matter got under way at the Knysna Regional Court on Friday.

William Beale, 39, was arrested in January 2015 when international police swooped on his seaside home. He then became the first South African to be arrested as part of Operation Cloud 9. 

The operation involved co-operation between South African and Belgian police, responsible for cracking down on an international child pornography ring linked to a cyber meeting space for paedophiles whose fetishes seem to be the sexual abuse of babies. Some of the images found included the torture and murder of babies as young as only a few days old.

When Beale was arrested, police found sections of files containing thousands of videos and violent assaults, as well internet addresses of more than 300 alleged paedophiles.

More than two years later, in February this year, Beale pleaded guilty to just short of 19 000 charges of possession of child pornography.

As sentencing proceedings started yesterday, Magistrate Eugenia Jacobs said that due to the sensitive nature of the images in question, these could not be discussed in an open court. She therefore, with the relevant role players, viewed a “sample” of the images in her chambers. She said these could be divided into various categories and included images of infants, toddlers and teenagers and varied in acts, from the bondage and rape of babies to other deviant sexual acts, being performed on children.

Among the witnesses who took the witness stand as part of sentencing proceedings was George clinical psychologist Tjaart van der Walt, who was called in mitigation of sentence.

Van der Walt testified that Beale suffered severe abuse - sexual, physical and psychological - as a child and that this was a contributing factor to developing deviant sexual interests.

He added that after consulting with Beale, it became apparent that he suffered from several disorders, including paedophilia, and suffered from other strong anti-social behavioural traits.

Van der Walt said while there was no cure for paedophilia and no “best practice” treatment for it, research had shown that “hands-off online” offenders - which did not include physical abuse of children - had a low likelihood of re-offending or developing into “contact” criminals.

He also testified that to his knowledge there was no evidence that Beale had groomed any child for abuse and that his viewing of child pornography was like an addition. “He admitted that he would often binge watch for up to eight hours at a time,” Van der Walt said.

Van der Walt added that while there was no treatment available for someone like Beale, there were programmes that he could participate in to address the behaviour.

He noted that if Beale would undergo the same treatment, the outcome would be the same, whether he was imprisoned or placed under correctional supervision.

A correctional services report that was also handed in as evidence yesterday suggested that Beale was a candidate for correctional supervision, but prosecutor Gerda Marx pointed out that there was no monitoring programme in place in terms of his online activity. Correctional supervision only included several visits, including to the convicted person's home and work.

The report also indicated that Beale was currently residing in a cottage on his brother's property in Kimberley and that he had contact with his brother's two young children. His family, however, does not object to this.

The matter was postponed to October 4 for the continuation of sentencing. The state is expected to cross-examine Van der Walt and call another expert witness.

Garden Route Media