Feb 2005

Prison officer’s internet porn shame

A 35-year-old prison officer who downloaded thousands of indecent images of children has been jailed for eight months.

Judge Adele Williams told Mark Gipps of Somerset Road, Canterbury, it was a great tragedy that he had put himself in such a position.

Canterbury Crown Court heard Gipps, a prison officer since 1992, had since resigned from the Prison Service and tried to kill himself with an overdose of anti-depressants. He had been employed at Elmley prison on Sheppey.

He had been committed for sentence by Canterbury Magistrates having admitted 20 sample charges of making indecent pictures of children last year.

Dominic Webber, prosecuting, said that when police investigated Gipps’ laptop they found about 700 images at level one, 30 at level two and one at level three.

When interviewed, he admitted downloading images from the internet having subscribed to pornography sites with his credit card. He had been downloading for a couple of years.

About May 2003, he had sold a computer to another prison officer who, when he became aware of the charges, took the computer to Maidstone police HQ.

“This was examined and about 3,050 images found at level one, 420 at level two, 160 at level three and 315 at level four.

“Gipps accepted he was responsible for the downloading,” said Mr Webber.

Gipps had no previous convictions and his counsel, Darren Weir, said his greatest mitigation was his guilty plea.

Gipps had been candid in interview and admitted responsibility for all the downloading. He said only six per cent of the images were at level four.

“These images are downloaded in groups so it is not known what is there until they are opened. There was no distribution and he does now recognise the harm in these images. At the time he said he did not regard the pictures as real people.

“He is at the very end of the chain and the offences could be linked to depression he was suffering at the time caused by his job when he was at his lowest ebb,” said Mr Weir.