A Chinese student who imported DVDs with cartoon animations depicting rape, abuse and bestiality has been discharged without conviction.
Canterbury University engineering student Xiran Zhang, 22, was not in New Zealand to hear the news of his discharge in the Christchurch District Court today.
Zhang last year admitted five charges under the Customs Act of importing objectionable DVDs into New Zealand from China.
The DVDs were cartoon animations depicting rape, abuse and bestiality involving eels.
He is in China, where he legitimately travelled for a holiday while on remand.
He was not on bail and he was allowed to travel, but now that he is in China, New Zealand immigration authorities will not let him back into the country.
That may change now that he has no convictions, enabling him to continue his studies. He was in the first year of an engineering degree.
Judge Phillip Moran decided to hear the application for a discharge without conviction today in spite of Zhang not being present.
It is understood Zhang wanted to return to New Zealand for the case to be dealt with.
The case had been delayed by last year's earthquake and by the closing of the Rangiora courthouse, where the guilty pleas were entered in September.
At the time of the guilty pleas, Judge Raoul Neave said he would not consider a discharge for Zhang until he showed he had addressed the "issues" that led him to import the material.
Defence counsel Simon Clay said today a report from a clinical psychologist said Zhang did not need psychological treatment and was a low risk of reoffending.
Zhang had moral beliefs that would prevent him knowingly breaking the law. He was seen as a naive young man.
Judge Phillip Moran today ruled that the fact that sexual abuse images were animated cartoons was a "significant mitigating factor" and granted a discharge without conviction.
"There is no doubt on any viewing of this material that it is disgusting and depraved, but there is a very significant mitigating factor - these are animations. They do not depict the abuse of live victims," he said.
He said it had been brought into New Zealand by Zhang for his own use and not for distribution.
Customs prosecutor Tim Mackenzie said the department saw supervision as the appropriate sentence, but that could not be imposed without Zhang being present.
Judge Moran said Zhang had been sent to New Zealand by his family, who were paying for his studies. He was of good character and had no previous convictions.
Convicting him would bring a great deal of wasted expense, as well as the shame of convictions for such offences.
It was unlikely he would get a resident's class visa in due course, the judge said.
"These are serious consequences," said the judge.
He ruled that the consequences of conviction were "out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending" and granted the discharge.
The court last year ordered the destruction of the DVDs.