May 2022

St Austell paedophile shared sick images of toddlers and young children on Kik app

A judge tore into a paedophile for supporting the “business” of child abuse, and has promised his actions would haunt him for all his life.

Ben Southgate, 25, downloaded and shared dozens of pornographic images of children on a popular chatroom app.

Southgate appeared for sentencing at Truro Crown Court today (May 19), having pleaded guilty to four counts of owning and distributing indecent photographs of children as young as five years old, and “toddlers”.

The court heard how the former retail worker had stored around 100 images of children being sexually abused and even raped on his mobile phone.

Living with his partner at the time of the offences between December 2018 and April 2019, Southgate, of Bethel near St Austell, had first come across images of child abuse on chatroom app Kik.

Southgate had recently lost a job and was described as “depressed” at the time.

After finding solace in adult pornography several times a week, the court heard, he signed up for Kik and, there, found another user who introduced him to child pornography. He was sent some images, which he “found hard to look at” at first, before finding sexual gratification in them.

Southgate, supported in court by family and his partner, continued to use Kik to view and download sexual pictures of children aged between 5 and 7. The court further heard how he had sought further images of “toddlers”, based on a search term found on his mobile phone.

On Kik, Southgate was in a group chat where members were open about their sexual attraction to children and shared further child abuse photos. Southgate then began to share the pictures he had downloaded to other Kik users.

His probation officer said: “He talks of a level of shame and remorse, but also of a cycle of viewing them, masturbating, then feeling great guilt and shame. But the attraction remains.”

Southgate’s address was raided on May 20, 2020, where he handed over his mobile phone and admitted to the offences on the spot. He pleaded guilty and, since being caught, has taken online courses to address his attraction to children.

Sentencing, Judge Simon Carr took this into account but said it was clear Southgate’s actions were not a spur-of-the-moment mistake or impulse. Judge Carr said: “Let’s all be absolutely clear, we speak of hundreds of children who are being raped and abused systematically, day after day, for one reason – the sexual interest of people like you.

“It’s a business, the people committing the abuse aren’t interested in the sexual activity. And you feed into that business. You need to reflect on the fact that kids as young as five or seven were raped and abused for you to be entertained. A toddler was abused for you to be entertained.

“You did this repeatedly over many months. To your credit you have accepted you have a problem, you’ve been exceptionally candid. But this wasn’t a mistake and this attraction will be with you for your life. What remains is where that can be controlled.”

Southgate was handed a 24-month community order as well as two suspended sentences (eight months and four months), must sign on to the sex offenders register, attend 20 days of rehabilitation and remain on a sexual harm prevention order for ten years which will limit and monitor his computer usage. He must also pay £250 in costs.

Judge Carr added that Southgate would have been considered for a “very long” prison sentence, had the images he distributed – rather than downloaded – on the Kik app been more severe.