December 2010

Vicar who kept stash of child porn on computer avoids prison sentence

A VICAR who had more than 600 child-porn pictures on his computer has been spared jail.

The Rev Dominic Stone was found guilty of 16 charges of downloading indecent images from the internet 

The 47-year-old appeared at Stafford Crown Court yesterday where he was given a nine-month jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for ten years.

Stone, a vicar at Marchington, Marchington Woodlands, Kingstone and Church Leigh, has also been told to complete a sex offenders’ treatment programme, been banned from working with children and is not allowed to access the internet without supervision.

Stone, a married father-of-two, pleaded not guilty to the offences, committed in January last year, but was found guilty after a trial.

Stone, of Mosty Lane, Marchington, said other people, including his wife, two sons, churchwardens and a cleaning lady, had access to his computer.

But Michelle Heeley, prosecuting, told the court that Stone was the only person to have access to a vicarage computer when the indecent images were downloaded during a four-day period.

After yesterday’s hearing, the Diocese of Lichfield confirmed that Stone resigned after his conviction last month.

Gavin Drake, director of communications for the diocese, said that Stone had now admitted his guilt but that his resignation did not remove him from the Church of England’s own disciplinary processes.

It is expected to result in a life ban from acting as a minister. Mr Drake said incidents like this were “extremely rare”.

He said: “Parents and the wider public can be assured that the Church of England has robust procedures in place to protect the children entrusted to our care, and that the protection of children is of primary importance.

“We would to take this opportunity to thank Staffordshire Police, and the other agencies involved, for keeping the diocese informed during what has been a lengthy process. It has been almost two years between the start of the investigation to yesterday’s sentencing; and the bishops, archdeacon and diocese are fully aware of the strain that this has had on the parishes.”

Mr Drake said work to appoint a replacement was under way. He added: “We would assure everybody involved, particularly child victims of abuse and sexual assault, of our continuing thoughts, prayers and vigilance.”