Sept 2009

Judge spares convicted paedophile from jail after officer was late for court

A judge has sparked fury by allowing a paedophile to go free – because a police  officer did not turn up at court on time.

David Berry was facing jail for amassing a giant collection of child pornography but was instead given a community order when Cleveland Police failed to send an officer to the court with the images.

Berry – jailed in 1988 for indecently assaulting a child – admitted 16 charges of making indecent images of children and possessing more than 500 others.

Paedophile David Berry escaped jailed despite amassing a large collection of child pornography images

Judge Michael Taylor said he wanted to lock up the 61-year-old, but felt it wrong to do so without the evidence.

He told: ‘In the circumstances, I am not  going to do what I should do and send you to prison.’

The case prompted anger from the National Victims’ Association (NVA), which said: ‘The bottom line is that the public have come off worst.’

Police found the pictures and short films on six different storage devices during a raid at his Hartlepool home in July 2007.

Berry was due to be sentenced last month but Judge Taylor adjourned the case when an officer failed to turn up to show him the images.

Judge Michael Taylor felt it wrong to lock up Berry without being presented by the evidence

On Wednesday he freed Berry after an officer had seemingly arrived late to present the same evidence to him.

He said: ‘This man fully deserves to go to prison for what has happened, but this has been left hanging over his head through no fault of his own.

‘He faced prison officers waiting to take him to the cells on the last occasion. The Crown could offer no explanation for the delay last time. We are in a similar position today.

‘The police, for some reason I cannot fathom, have taken two years to bring this matter to court… it is totally unacceptable.’

Judge Taylor imposed a three-year community order and ordered Berry to undergo a sex offenders’ treatment programme.

The NVA spokesman said: ‘It sounds as though the police could have been more diligent, but it also sounds as if the judge should have taken into account the potential devastating consequences of releasing this man.

‘If the police had put together a case with examples of indecent images, that strongly suggests that he is still disposed to seeing children as sexual objects and such a person should not be free to roam among decent, law-abiding citizens.’

The force said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the judge’s comments and said full investigations would be carried out into both cases.

A spokesman said: ‘We are extremely disappointed. The officer tasked with producing the images in evidence was at the court at the time he believed he had been requested to attend.

‘There will be a full investigation into the circumstances that led to Judge Taylor to make his comments.

‘If there are any lessons to be learnt, we will ensure this happens.’