June 2009

Man spared prison on child abuse images charges

A MAN who lives at a family visitor attraction and children’s park has walked free from court after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Francis Hancock, 50, who lives at the Gnome World park, near Indian Queens in Mid-Cornwall, previously admitted to 19 counts of making indecent photographs and four counts of possessing indecent photographs of children.

At his sentencing yesterday, Truro Crown Court heard Hancock was found out when he took his computer in to be repaired and a technician saw the pornography on his hard drive.

Images of child pornography are graded in terms of seriousness from levels one to five with five being the worst – many of the images found on Hancock’s computer were of a level four.

Sentencing, Judge Christopher Elwen said: “These offences very much arose from having access to the Internet and looking to see what was there.

“You had in fact looked and, as far as you were aware, deleted the images. However when your hard drive went in for repair the person carrying out that task came across traces of the indecent images and contacted the police.”

The judge said there was no indication that Hancock was building a library of images or sharing indecent material with other people.

Judge Elwen said: “When we press the delete button and think it’s gone it hasn’t necessarily – it is stored away.”

Prosecuting barrister Ron Ede told the court Hancock was arrested on July 1 last year at his address at Gnome World where he lives for 50 out of 52 weeks of the year.

He said: “He lives at what is effectively a holiday complex which is visited by children. That is of much concern as the images themselves.”

Mr Ede told the court that when arrested, Hancock confessed to having a sexual interest in girls aged 13 to 14. “When using the Internet he used search terms such as ‘Lolita’ and ‘pre-teen porn’,” said Mr Ede.

Defending, Michael Gregson told the court that the charge of creating images was due to the fact that if someone downloads images onto a computer that is classed as creation.

Mr Gregson said there was no indication whatsoever of any offences involving contact with young people.

He said that full admissions were made at the earliest possible opportunity.

The prosecution applied for a sexual offences prevention order but Judge Elwen did not grant the application.

Hancock was sentenced to a three-year community order under supervision. He was ordered to pay £250 costs, to be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years and to participate in the Internet sex offender programme.

After the hearing, Det Con Steve Rome from the child exploitation team at Devon and Cornwall Police said: “If people use the Internet to satisfy their sexual interest in children then they will be caught.

“There are so many mechanisms in place to catch people and in this case it was down to the vigilance of the technician.”