Councillor spared jail over child porn images

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.
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An ex-Nelson Labour councillor has been spared jail for downloading “ horrific” videos of young children being sexually abused – including a film of a six-month-old baby.

Richard Smith (32) was “stoned” on cannabis and depressed at the time he viewed the vile images, all in Category A, the most serious level, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Richard Smith. (S)

Richard Smith. (S)

The hearing was told Smith, who was caught when his home in Waidshouse Road, Nelson, was raided, claimed he had been looking for gay porn, but came across the videos by accident and deleted them as he knew it was wrong. He said there had been a previous incident years before when he accidentally came across child porn and he had reported that to the police. He told officers he used a sharing network and that was how the pictures came to be on his computer.

Smith, who worked in customer services, has now lost his job. He had earlier admitted three charges of making an indecent photo of a child, on August 29th and July 24th last year. He was given nine months in jail, suspended for two years, with two years’ supervision and must attend the internet sexual offenders’ treatment programme. Smith was also made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order, which allows police to monitor his internet use. The defendant represented Clover Hill Ward on Pendle Council and also served as a Nelson town councillor. He had no previous convictions.

Robert Smith (prosecuting) said, at 6-30am, police went to Smith’s home and he immediately owned up to being responsible for the images. His computer equipment was seized, his external hard drive was sent off for examination and three videos found.

Mr Smith said one film showed a boy of about seven and another involved a teenager of 14 or 15. The prosecutor said perhaps the most graphic and horrific was the third video, which showed a baby, about six months old, being penetrated by an adult male.

You must realise these are not victimless offences, because each of the victims is a child who lives and exits somewhere and has been abused graphically and horribly so people like you can see it

Judge

The defendant claimed he had deleted the images, but, said the prosecutor, at least one video was said to have been on the computer for at least three months and had been accessed only four days before his arrest.

Robert Elias (defending) described the films as “disturbing and harrowing”. He said Smith didn’t tell the police about the images as he did a few years ago when something similar happened, as he was stoned.

The barrister continued: “His appearance is deeply embarrassing to him. The pro-social activities have been abandoned by him completely now because of his conviction. He is very sorry. He is somebody with pro-social attitudes. He’s made a mistake, but he’s somebody who can be assisted by the probation service.”

Judge Simon Newell said Smith had a good work record, had made a positive contribution to society and had a stable family background. Sentencing, he said aggravating features were the ages of the children involved. The judge told the court there was something of a lacuna in the evidence as to how the images came to be in Smith’s possession, and he (the judge) and the Crown were not in a position to gainsay the defendant’s explanation about the sharing network and the images coming with others he was looking at which were not illegal.

Judge Newell continued: “But, you must realise these are not victimless offences, because each of the victims is a child who lives and exits somewhere and has been abused graphically and horribly so people like you can see it.”

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