May 2011

Charity attacks ‘appallingly lenient’ sentence of former Lambeth councillor caught with images of abused children

A child protection charity has attacked an “appallingly lenient” decision not to jail a former Lambeth councillor who admitted possessing more than 94,000 images and videos of abused children.

Toren Smith, of Lilford Road, Camberwell, was given a two year suspended sentence at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, after earlier pleading guilty to 24 counts of possessing and making indecent images of children.

In all, Smith, who was looking at porn when police raided his house, had 93,549 still images, and 777 movies – 11 of which were level five, the most serious and degrading kind.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said the sentence was appallingly lenient and described a decision not to give Smith a custodial sentence as “outrageous”.

He said: “It sends a message to society and to abusers that it is OK to pay to see images and videos of children being abused.

“Society has to say that this is not acceptable. A suspended sentence is virtually letting him go free.

“One of the reasons children are so in danger of this crime is because society and child protection charities are not bold enough to speak out on this issue. There is no excuse for such a heinous crime.”

An NSPCC spokesman would not comment on the case, but said: “The phenomenal amount of indecent images being circulated is a major problem that needs to be urgently tackled.

“Every image represents a child who has been sexually assaulted. In determining sentences it is vitally important to consider the risks posed by offenders and how they are monitored and supervised.”

Detectives from the paedophile unit of Metropolitan Police’s child abuse command searched the former Tulse Hill ward councillor’s home on May 21 last year, after inquiries revealed Smith had, on two occasions, paid to download material, which included a number of level five images and footage.

A Met Police spokesman said: “During a search of the property officers seized alaptop computer and a USB stick and at the time of the search Smith was logged on to a site displaying pornographic material.”

Further examination of Smith’s computer and USB stick revealed the 777 movies – 11 of which were level five – and 93,549 still images, police said.

Smith, who was a respected senior Labour member of the council, was an elected member for 16 years and co-chairman of the council’s planning committee, resigned from the council three days later “for personal reasons”.

He was sentenced to three months imprisonment for the level one to three images, six months for the level four images, and one year for the level five images – all to run concurrently.

His sentences were suspended for 24 months. In addition, he was made subject to a sex offender prevention order for five years, and placed on the sex offenders register for at least five years. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

After sentencing, Detective Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Met’s paedo unit, said: “Each image or movie represents a child who has been abused.”

It is believed Smith had a clean record when an advanced Criminal Records Bureau check was carried out on him as part of a council protocol introduced in light of the Baby P scandal in 2009.