February 2020

Man secretly took scores of photographs of naked children from Lakes home

A man who secretly took scores of photographs of two naked children from his Lake District home has been spared prison.

Martin John Ashton, 52, used a digital camera to covertly capture 95 pictures of the primary school age youngsters from his address in Keswick.

These were found when electronic devices seized from him by police in June last year were forensically analysed. They’d been taken while the children were “in a state of undress”, the focus of several images being on intimate body parts, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson said parents had identified the children in question. “They were totally unaware the photographs had been taken and have made a decision to keep their children unaware – but nevertheless expressed their shock,” he stated.

In addition, Ashton had downloaded and saved almost 300 other still and moving illegal images over the course of around 12 years. A man of previous good character, Ashton admitted making, taking and possessing indecent child images, and possessing cannabis found on the day of his arrest.

David Wales, defending, said the defendant believed a multi-capture camera burst setting was the “only explanation” for the large number of images taken on a single day.

Judge Peter Davies suspended a 14-month prison sentence for two years. Ashton must complete a sex offender treatment course, 180 hours’ unpaid work and rehabilitation. He must sign the sex offenders’ register and abide by the strict terms of a prevention order for five years.

“I’m very firmly of the view that people like you should have all the help they possibly can to prevent them committing actual contact offences, so that you don’t develop and progress to that,” Judge Davies told Ashton, now of Melrose Gardens, Sowerby, Thirsk.

“I think it’s better if you stay out of prison and get help. If I gave you a prison sentence they wouldn’t have the resources to help you and that wouldn’t be in anybody’s interests.”