November 2011

Restricted powers sees child sex offender avoid prison

A FORMER Falmouth Scout master who admitted downloading hundreds of indecent images of children has escaped jail because of restricted sentencing powers.

Damian Gough, a 49-year-old grandfather, walked free from Truro Crown Court on Friday after Judge Christopher Elwen imposed a three-year community order, which incorporates participation in the internet sex offenders programme, and banned him from working with children.

Judge Elwen criticised restricted sentencing powers preventing tougher jail terms being handed down to those who download child pornography.

Sparing Gough jail, Judge Elwen said sending him to prison for about six weeks, the most he would serve for his offences, was “a waste of time”.

He told Gough, who had been a Scout master with the 6th Falmouth Sea Scout Group for 14 years, the guidelines were “wrong” not to allow tougher sentences for people like him, compared to those handed to child abusers.

“Without people like you prepared to surf the internet and download this disgusting material there is a chance a stop could be made to the exploitation of these innocent and vulnerable people,” said Judge Elwen.

“The only way the background behaviour (the abuse of the children) is going to be prevented is for very stiff custodial sentences to be handed out to the ‘lookers’.

“While the prison term would punish you, one of the purposes of sentencing, it would do nothing to ensure your rehabilitation and it would not deter anyone.”

Gough, formerly of Tregullow Road but now living at a Salvation Army hostel in Birmingham, had admitted 15 charges involving the making of more than 250 indecent images, including movies, of children.

Of them, 15 still-images and seven video clips were at level five, the most serious, and a further 106 were at level four.

Prosecutor Elaine Hobson said when Gough was interviewed he admitted he had been watching images of children having sex and performing sexual acts on and off for several years.

“He said he was at first sickened and then curious about why the children were doing it,” said Ms Hobson.

Dieter Kehler, for the defence, said: “There is no suggestion that this went beyond looking at images on a computer, no suggestion there was any suffering (caused) beyond that.”

Gough, who had also been an altar server at St Mary’s Catholic Church, will also be electronically tagged for six months and subject to an 8pm to 6am curfew.

He must also sign the sex offenders register for the next five years and was banned from using the internet, including e-mail, unless supervised, for five years.