An elderly resident of Sunnmøre has been sentenced to 12.5 years in prison, one of the harshest penalties reserved in Norwegian criminal law, for ordering sexual assaults to be carried out online against dozens of Filipino children, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.
The court established that at least 65 girls under the age of 14, the youngest of whom were merely babies, were victimised by the man's orders between 2012 and 2013. One of the assaults featured a three-year-old girl and lasted over 40 minutes, which the man watched live from his home in Norway while giving instructions. The man admitted to having sent a total of about NOK 500,000 (close to $60,000) to "mediators" in the Philippines.
"With his actions, the accused contributed to a sex industry that brutally exploits vulnerable children in the worst possible way", the Søre Sunnmøre district court in western Norway wrote in its verdict.
According to the court, some of the victims lived in "almost inhuman" conditions, which the man perpetuated with his actions. The prosecutor initially demanded a 12-year prison sentence, but the court decided on a harsher punishment given the victim's young age as an aggravating factor.
The man claimed he had been "going through a rough patch" privately, when he started visiting foreign web sites for adults. After a short period of time, he started to receive sexual propositions from women featuring their daughters, he claimed. In court, the man explained that he wanted to help the women with money for food and education and said he felt remorse.
The Norwegian police were alerted by the FBI as part of a larger case the latter was probing. During the investigation, the police found more than 36,000 photographs and videos containing child pornography in the man's possession.
The verdict has received national coverage and triggered strong reactions.
"A man his age must know better when to stop. There is no excuse even if there are parents who shouldn't have had children in the first place", a user commented on Facebook, citing a demand for this sort of thing in rich Western countries.
"This guy should have been sent to the Philippines to serve his punishment, shame there is no extradition agreement between Norway and the Philippines!" another user commented.
Meanwhile, this phenomenon is not particularly new. This past autumn, a man his 40s, who happens to be a Labour politician living in Hordaland County, was been charged with ordering the online abuse of 61 Filipino children, NRK reported.