July 2023

Cockermouth pensioner had extreme images and child abuse cartoons

A West Cumbrian pensioner has admitted possessing illegal extreme pornography and prohibited ‘cartoon’ images of children being sexually abused.

Cockermouth man Ian Willis, 74, admitted the two offences during a hearing at Carlisle Crown Court, though he denied a third charge of downloading an indecent child image.

Outlining the two admitted offences, prosecutor Sarah Griffin said they were committed between July 1, 2020 and December 20 of that year. Police found the illegal images after seizing and analysing the defendant’s Samsung phone.

“There were 407 extreme pornographic images and seven prohibited images of children, which are described as being cartoon type images,” said Ms Griffin.

The barrister went on to outline the kind of images that police found. The extreme images depicted adults involved in sexual activity with animals and two of those were moving images, the court heard.

The prohibited child images were cartoons depicting sexual activity between adults and children, including children as young as eight. Marion Weir, defending, handed two character references to the court.

Ms Griffin said the defendant accepted the phone containing the illegal images was his but he denied searching for indecent child images. “He claimed that they must have been there by accident,” said the barrister.

The defendant did, however, accept searching for extreme pornographic images but claimed he did not know this was illegal.

“He said he was driven by curiosity and that he did not have an exciting life,” added the barrister.

Judge Richard Archer told Willis: “You are 74 and you have no previous convictions, and these offences are now of some age. They represent behaviour and offending committed up to and during the pandemic period of 2020, when life changed markedly for many people.

“That does not give you an excuse for behaving as you did because many people were able to bide their time as responsible adults without resorting to criminality.”

But the defendant’s blameworthiness was ‘relatively low’, said the judge, concluding that a custodial sentence was not necessary. Nor did the judge think it necessary to put the pensioner on the Sex Offender Register or impose a sexual harm prevention order.

Willis, of St Leonard’s Close, Cockermouth, was given an 18-month community order which includes 20 rehabilitation activity days.