April 2004

Warder is jailed on porn charges

A rison officer who worked in a sex offender unit was jailed yesterday after he was exposed as a child porn pervert. 

Former soldier Michael Clark was a warder at the unit at Acklington Prison in Northumberland when he was trapped during a crackdown on internet child porn. 

Computer equipment he owned or had sold to an unsuspecting work colleague was seized and examined by experts. As well as downloading thousands of legal adult images, Clark had accessed around 750 paedophile photographs. 

Police also learned Clark had installed a special programme to enable him to access and share material with other computer users. Clark, 39, of Beatties Buildings, Pegswood, near Morpeth, was convicted after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court last January of 12 charges of making indecent images of children and one of possessing indecent images of children. 

He had denied all the offences, claiming he had only been interested in adult pornography, that any child images he had received were accidental and immediately deleted. He also maintained he had never made the credit card transaction. 

The case was adjourned for a probation service report and assessment by sex offender treatment experts. 

Christopher Dorman O’Gowan, defending, said Clark had led an otherwise hardworking and blameless life. 

“I invite the court to consider the loss of his employment, the loss of his good character, but more importantly that he is a person who accepts responsibility and indicates a willingness to engage in treatment,” he said. 

Jailing Clark for nine months, Judge David Wood ordered him to register as a sex offender for 10 years and also authorised the forfeiture of the computer equipment involved in the offending. The judge said he accepted the paedophile images were only a small percentage ( some two per cent ( of Clark’s collection. 

But he told Clark: “There is evidence of distress to the children and obviously a high degree of abuse and corruption has been used to produce such photography.” 

The judge said that while he accepted Clark had expressed a new willingness to engage in sex offender programme treatment work, the circumstances of his offending meant only custody was appropriate. 

A Prison Service spokeswoman said Clark had been dismissed from his £18,500-a-year job at Acklington ( where he had worked on the sex offenders’ wing ( on his conviction. 

The spokeswoman said: “He wasn’t known to be a criminal when he was employed. Standard checks would have been carried out and any previous convictions, if he had had any, would have automatically barred him from working in the prison service.”