Pensioner 'could not help himself' viewing indecent images of children

Ipswich Crown Court

Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A Hadleigh pensioner has been spared jail despite being caught with indecent images of children for a second time.

John Hall, of Ann Beaumont Way, Hadleigh, was already on the sex offenders’ register when caught with more than 2,000 of the most serious, category A, indecent images of children on a home computer.

The 78-year-old was also still serving a suspended prison sentence imposed in October 2015 for possessing indecent images.

Hall appeared at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court last July to admit three counts of making indecent photographs of children between September 2017 and June 2019, as well as two breaches of a sexual harm prevention order between June 2018 and June 2019.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Ipswich Crown Court.

The latest discovery was made after a public protection officer made an unannounced visit to Hall’s home on June 11, 2019.

A forensic examination of a desktop computer and two hard drives uncovered 2,459 category A images and 88 category A movies, 1,853 category B images and 167 category B movies, and 1,091 category C images and 24 category C movies.

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He was also found to have breached a a sexual harm prevention order by erasing his internet browsing history and communicating via webcam with a boy of around 15.

When interviewed by police, Hall explained he "could not help himself" and was admittedly "staggered" by the volume of downloaded images. 

Craig Marchant, mitigating, told the court that Hall had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive lung disease in 2015, and more recently, with stage four prostate cancer, requiring consecutive radiotherapy sessions across 10 days in March.

He said Hall's lung condition and cancer could prove a "deadly combination" amid any potential risk of Covid-19 infection in prison.

Mr Marchant said Hall had completed online sessions with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation – a charity dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse – since the most recent offences took place.

Recorder Heather Rogers QC said Hall's poor health had been a compelling factor in the balance tipping "very marginally" in favour of suspending custody, but added: "I do so with considerable hesitation."

Hall will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order and be required to sign the sex offenders' register for another 10 years.

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