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Judge to rule on child porn case bail

PUBLISHED: 09:30 16 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:39 03 March 2010

A JUDGE is due to decide today if two policemen involved in the Soham murder inquiry should be freed on bail after being accused of child pornography offences.

A JUDGE is due to decide today if two policemen involved in the Soham murder inquiry should be freed on bail after being accused of child pornography offences.

Detective constable Brian Stevens, who comforted Jessica Chapman's family, appeared before magistrates in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday along with a second Cambridgeshire officer who worked on the case, Pc Antony Goodridge.

They were remanded in custody pending a prosecution appeal to the crown court, likely to be heard today, against a decision by the magistrates to allow them bail.

Stevens, 41, was family liaison officer with the Chapman family after Jessica and her friend Holly Wells, both 10, disappeared on August 4. Only two weeks ago he read a poem at a memorial service for the two girls in Ely Cathedral.

The girls' bodies were found at an isolated track in Wangford, near Brandon, on August 17. Last Tuesday, Stevens was among police officers who attended a court hearing in Peterborough for Ian Huntley, the former school caretaker charged with their murder.

Stevens, a father-of-two, who lives at March, in Cambridgeshire, was arrested two days later and is now accused of three offences relating to child pornography. They are:

n That between March 1, 1999, and September 8, 1999, he incited the distribution of indecent photographs of children;

n On June 6, 2002, he made an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 16;

n On May 26, 2002, he made an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 16.

Goodridge, 34, from Ely, is accused of four offences, which are:

n That between March 1, 1999, and September 9, 1999, he incited the distribution of indecent pseudo-photographs of children;

n On 17 June, 2002, he made an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 16;

n Between 17 June, 2002, and 12 September, 2002, he had in his possession an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child with a view to its being distributed or shown by or to another;

n Between March 1, 2001, and September 12, 2002, he made an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 16.

The court was told the charges faced by the two men were in no way related to the Soham murder inquiry and are part of an international investigation.

Peter Gair, prosecuting, said the defendants were not jointly charged. He added that the maximum jail term for anyone convicted of committing such offences since 2000, when the law was strengthened, was 10 years. Offences committed before that date carried a maximum penalty of three years.

Mr Gair asked the panel of two women magistrates to remand both defendants in custody but Kevin McCarthy, solicitor for Goodridge, and Felicity Carnegie, for Stevens, argued they should be given bail.

After listening to around an hour of submissions from the lawyers the magistrates retired for another hour to consider their options. When they returned, presiding magistrate Jane Palmer announced the officers would be given bail.

However, Mr Gair launched an immediate appeal against the decision, meaning they would have to be remanded in custody until that hearing.

Mrs Palmer told Stevens and Goodridge: "In the light of the appeal against our decision to grant bail we must remand you in custody pending the outcome of the appeal."

If they are refused bail at the appeal hearing they will next appear at magistrates court via a video link at Sudbury on September 23. If they are granted bail the next hearing will be at Bury magistrates on November 11.

Stevens, wearing a dark shirt and fleece and Goodridge, wearing a blue shirt, were led away handcuffed to security officers.

They had arrived at the court around three hours earlier, after making the short journey from Bury police station in a prison vehicle. They were led, handcuffed, into the court building with blue blankets over their heads.

Throughout the hearing Goodridge, who is married and has children aged six years and nine months, sat with his head bowed and wiped his eyes occasionally. Stevens, newly married for a second time and the father of a 15-year-old girl and a grown up son, sat upright, looking straight into the courtroom, which was filled with reporters and detectives.

Both men, who have been suspended from duty, were arrested on Thursday by detectives from the West Midlands force as part of a world-wide inquiry being led by the FBI in the USA. The British National Crime Squad has been co-ordinating the UK operation.

Cambridgeshire police say both Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells' families have been informed of the developments.

The families have issued a joint statement saying they still have confidence in the murder investigation, which involved more than 300 police officers from several counties.

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