Residents and children’ s rights activists are expected to protest outside the Plettenberg Bay Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, ahead of the appearance of a man accused of being part of a global network of paedophiles.

The 37-year-old computer engineer, who cannot be named until he has pleaded, was arrested in his double-storey sea-facing home in January for his alleged links to a global paedophile network.

His arrest followed a lengthy joint investigation by South African and Belgian police after his internet address was found on a cyber meeting space used by the network. Investigators seized his laptop, where they allegedly found traces of videos and photographs depicting violent assaults on children.

They also allegedly found an encrypted rape and kill file that provided access to a site with fetishes for the abduction, bondage, rape and murder of newborn babies. The site led to the discovery of internet addresses of a further 334 alleged paedophiles.

Woman and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) Director Miranda Friedmann called for harsher punishments for those found in possession of child pornography.

“Child pornography is definitely an offence in our laws, but there is a gap. There are no set penalties for the various crimes involved under the term child pornography and as a result the court ‘s discretion can be for sentences from a fine of R15 000 to 15 years direct imprisonment,” she said.

” What we are seeing is the former [fines] being used in the majority of courts, which suggests that the courts do not see these crimes as serious,” she said.

Friedmann said a number of recent judgments pointed to a failure by the courts to understand child pornography in the context of the sexual abuse and brutalisation of children. She said WMACA wanted to see penalties of at least five years per image of child pornography handed down to offenders.

” Those manipulating the images, viewing and distributing them are inciting the commission of, and are accessories to, the abuse of these children. They know it ‘s wrong, but they do not report it and actually facilitate its production by creating demand,” she said.

“Sentences must reflect the seriousness of the offence. These images are of actual rape, torture and sexual abuse of children. The sentences must punish all who view, manufacture or distribute these images as child rapists, ” she said.

Friedmann said they were also calling for the establishment of a National Cyber Security Unit, tasked with policing of child pornography on the internet.

” We want a functional National Cyber Security Unit to be established with an expert team of forensic investigators dedicated to child pornography crimes and equipped with all necessary resources to fight these crimes,” she said.