August 2022

Disgraced police officer cries in the dock as decade-long child abuse image download spree is laid bare

A police officer and father-of-one has been spared jail after he was caught with thousands of child abuse images after his pregnant wife found them on his phone when she suspected him of cheating.

The photographs, of which there were more than 2,000, were amassed by PC Thomas Woods, 34, from 2010 to 2021 and showed ‘considerable pain and suffering’ of children.

Woods, from New Longton, Preston, who served with Greater Manchester Police, was caught when his pregnant wife suspected he had been cheating on her and checked his phone last December.

Minshull Street Crown Court heard that his wife, also a GMP officer, ‘realised there were images of children on there’ but Woods claimed the images were part of a criminal investigation.

But his wife’s friend was concerned that she ‘was being lied to’ and after further enquiries with GMP, it was confirmed that the images were not part of an investigation.

The 34-year-old was arrested in December, with a search of his home revealing that there were 378 category A images, the most serious type, that could be accessed and 300 that could not be accessed.

Officers also found 308 and 209 category B images and 358 and 825 category C images, accessible and inaccessible respectively.

Prosecuting, Mark Pritchard told the court that the images showed children aged three to 16 years old experiencing ‘considerable pain and suffering’.

The court heard that Woods had possessed many of the images before undertaking his role as a police officer.

Woods admitted one count of possessing an indecent photograph or pseudo photograph of a child at a hearing in December.

At another hearing in July, he admitted three counts of making an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child, possessing a prohibited image of a child, and possessing an extreme pornographic image at another hearing in July.

The judge Mr Recorder Anthony O’Donohoe said he’d given ‘considerable thought’ to what sentence to hand Wood as his offending passed the custody threshold.

He said: ‘These are real victims and their suffering is real. By accessing the images you contributed to their suffering. At the time you were a serving police officer, who should have known better.’

He added that the public expected ‘higher standards’ of officers, but after giving the matter considerable thought he believed he could pass a suspended sentence and there was a ‘realistic prospect’ Woods could be rehabilitated.

The judge said Woods was now separated from his wife and child and faced being dismissed by from the police force ‘in disgrace’, which would have a ‘considerable impact’ on his income.

Woods was handed a 16-month sentence, suspended for two years, and the judge ordered him to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

Woods was also handed a five-year sexual harm prevention order, ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, and pay £340 costs.