Febuary 2010

Portland prison officer jailed for child porn offences

Portland prison officer caught possessing and distributing indecent images of children has been sentenced to 14 months on the other side of the bars.

Father-of-three and Falklands War veteran Francis Hart, aged 48, was an officer at the Portland Young Offender Institution when police raided his home in Harbour View Road on Portland and confiscated two computers.

Cliff Grier, prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court, said Hart was found to have 1,268 images of children with most on his computer and some on alaptop computer his wife had owned for a week.

Tests on the computers showed Hart had been on internet chatrooms where he encouraged others to send him the indecent images, Mr Grier told the court.

Mr Grier said one chat room user spoke about abusing his or her own children who were aged nine and younger.

“If you read through these there are very salacious discussions going on,” Mr Grier said.

Indecent images of children are graded one to five with five the most serious. Hart admitted possessing 897 grade one images, 39 grade two, 87 grade three, and 245 grade four.

He admitted distributing 45 grade one images, nine grade three images and 16 grade four images. Mr Grier said Hart’s son and two daughters were aged 13, 16 and 21 and had access to the computers when the police took them on December 19, 2007.

Susan Evans, mitigating, said all conversations were ‘fantasies’ and there were no suggestions that Hart was involved in any child abuse.

She said: “He does still have distorted thinking but there is a recognition of the distress that was caused to the victims of the photographs and there is remorse in relation to that coming through.

“There is substantial remorse for the pain and distress that he put his own family through.”

She said Hart had no previous convictions and served in the Army with the Royal Engineer for 15 years, serving in the Falklands War and two tours in Northern Ireland.

She said he regretted leaving his role as acting sergeant.

Judge Christopher Harvey Clark, sentencing Hart to 14 months, said: “As you know only too well you will serve half that time in custody and the rest on licence.

“I’ve no doubt you’ve told many inmates at Portland exactly that when they’ve arrived in your care and control.”

He added: “I hope afterwards you go back to your family and put this catastrophic inclination into the past and are never tempted to access this material again.”

Hart’s offences were split into 20 convictions with concurrent sentences imposed for each.

For the possession of level one images he received three months and for level two, six months.

Eight month sentences were passed for the level three images and 10 months for the possession of level four images.

For distribution he was given six months for grade one, 12 months for grade three and the 14 month sentence for grade four.