August 2008

Exeter child porn case ‘worst I’ve seen,’ says judge

A PAEDOPHILE who had more than 250,000 indecent photos stored on his computer has been jailed for three years.

Martin Hatcher, 46, also spied on school children in Exeter through binoculars and had three mannequins in his home dressed in children’s clothing.

In Exeter Crown Court, Judge Phillip Wassall said of Hatcher’s haul of “vile and depraved” images: “In over 30 years’ experience within the criminal justice system, and the 14 years I’ve spent on the bench, this is the worst case of its type I’ve seen.”

Judge Wassall said he was constrained in the length of prison term by sentencing guidelines and Hatcher would serve only half of the three years before being released.

A police image of hatcher

He said: “You pose an elevated risk of live abuse against children, which is plainly evidenced by material seized from your home.

“That material shows the depths and extent of your perverted sexual thinking.”

The court heard that police discovered around 300,000 computer images at Hatcher’s Exeter home, of which around 90 per cent were indecent photos of children, and thousands of similar downloaded movies of youngsters.

He also had two pairs of binoculars to spy on youngsters, as his home overlooked a city primary school, and had taken photographs of youngsters playing there, although these images were not part of the charges.

The court heard that he had been released on bail before sentencing, despite the school writing to the court, in addition to other letters from neighbours, to express their concerns about him living nearby.

Detectives also found three home-made mannequins, dressed in children’s clothes, newspaper cuttings about paedophile cases and sick stories he had written himself and downloaded about youngsters.

He also had books about the Fred and Rose West serial killing case, children’s clothes and underwear, and had taken photographs of children in the city, then added images of himself to create pseudo-images of them being abused.

The defendant, who has no previous convictions, had been a biomedical scientist for the NHS in the city at the time, although he has since resigned and the address of his workplace was not given in court. He had also voluntarily been teaching a child how to use computers. He admitted 26 charges of making indecent photographs of a child on occasions between 1997 and 2007.

These specimen charges included images graded from level one, at the lowest end of the scale, to hundreds at levels four and five which are the worst possible.

Prosecutor Terry Holder said police raided Hatcher’s house in October last year, following an American investigation which established Hatcher had been paying to use an internet paedophile site.

They discovered images, including ones of babies, although the court heard that Hatcher’s preference was for under-age girls.

Defence counsel Stephen Nunn said Hatcher had never directly abused children himself and had fully cooperated with police. “He has never had any mature relationship with any person,” said Mr Nunn.

“He has led a lonely, reclusive life in a laboratory dealing with specimens, or living alone, sleeping in his bedroom with three computers and living in a fantasy world.

“He is not proud of what he has done and has a growing realisation of how repugnant to normal people it is.”

Judge Wassall said Hatcher would be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life and also banned him for life from many activities, including contacting any child under 16 without adult supervision and accessing or downloading any child-related site or any web chatroom.

Police will also be allowed immediate access to his home to monitor his computer use, at certain times of the day.

A neighbour of Hatcher’s, who was unable to attend sentencing, told the Echo: “Nobody likes having someone like this living near them. We got a letter through the door and a copy of the Echo, asking for people to write letters for him not to live there if he gets out.

“There are lots of families living with kids in our streets and I wouldn’t want him there.”

Det Con Glenn Boniface, officer in the case, said it was the largest-scale case of its type that he had known since he had worked in Exeter.

He welcomed the jail sentence, adding: “This sends a message to anyone considering looking at internet child porn that we will catch them.”