April 2001

Judge jails paedophile

A JUDGE granted tough new powers to jail internet paedophiles sent one to jail for six months on Friday.

Judge Adrian Smith said Stretford man Steven Heather, 30 – who was already on probation for trawling the web for child porn – was better off getting treatment.

Heather – who collected sordid images of children from the internet – could have faced five years in jail under new guidelines introduced last January against perverts who trawl the web for child pornography.

He was already serving two years probation after 2,000 sickening images were found hidden in his computer hard drive memory in 1999.

In April 1999, he had been ordered to go on a sex offender course but didn’t attend because of his job working as a long distance HGV driver.

Police arrested him two weeks ago as part of a major police investigation dubbed Operation Appal which resulted this week with the arrest of 33 suspects in dawn raids on 45 homes across Britain.

Detectives from Greater Manchester’s Obscene Publications Squad were so concerned about Heather’s background they wanted to seize him early because he posed such a risk to children.

They had kept watch on well known paedophile sites on the internet and spotted Heather’s e-mails pleading for other perverts to supply him with various pictures – one on Christmas Day.

In a raid on his home in Hornby Road, Stretford, they discovered a CD with 30 horrifying images of children which had been downloaded off the web. Heather managed to flee to France but handed himself in to police on March 2.

In interview at the police station he was asked why he looked at obscene images almost every day and replied: “Because I’m sick.”

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Heather admitted nine counts of making indecent photographs of children and one possessing a CD containing indecent images.

In passing sentence, Judge Smith said Heather would have to be on extended licence for 24 months after his release from prison – meaning he will be monitored by probation officers until 2003.

He also ordered Heather to remain on the Sex Offender’s Register for seven years. Judge Smith ruled Heather would not get the appropriate intensive treatment in prison unless he received a sentence exceeding four years.

By giving him extended licence, Heather would be able to attend sex offender programs organised by the probation service on his release.

The judge added: “Your case is different because there is no distribution and I accept they were downloaded for your own purposes.

“I am told you have already taken steps to try and combat your interest in child pornography by getting rid of your computer.

“These are images of real children and while you are not up before the court for abusing a child the seriousness of the situation is that there would be simply no market for these photographs.

“If there was no market for these photographs then children would not be degraded and abused for such images.”

But although Heather’s e-mails were anonymous detectives found that he had set up the account and was prowling the web again for pictures.

When a search warrant was finally executed police found one CD containing images involving an eight-year-old girl having sex with a grown man. His computer was not recovered and Heather claimed he had sold it on to a friend.

Robert Kearney, defending, said his client had been frank with police during interview and accepted that he needed help for his illness. He had sold his computer to remove temptation.

Mr Kearney said: “He was asked why he decided to get rid of everything and he said: “It was either top myself or change my lifestyle.”