April 2010

No jail term for soldier caught with child porn

A SOLDIER with a ‘sparkling military career’ has escaped jail after being found with more than 1,000 child porn images, including some at the worst level.

Colour Sergeant Richard Watson, 39, of 3rd Battalion Mercian Regiment, was kicked out of the Army after pleading guilty to distributing, making and possessing child porn images.

Police tracked him down after seizing computers from men in Surrey and Portsmouth and finding logs of conversations they had with Watson in Internet chatrooms, where the men swapped the images.

Philip Warren, prosecuting at Salisbury Crown Court on Friday, said the images were found on an old computer he gave to his former father-in-law, and on a games console memory card found in his room at Mooltan barracks, Tidworth.

Of the images found by police, there were seven at the worst level five, which feature bestiality or sadomasochism, and more than 200 images at level four.

He was arrested in July 2008 and initially pleaded not guilty. He changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial at Winchester Crown Court in February.

Andrew Jordan, prosecuting, said Watson was physically, sexually and mentally abused as a child by his mother and stepfather, who sometimes confined him to live in a chicken coop for a week at a time.

When he was 15, he joined the Army and has completed numerous tours of duty, received eight medals and would have become Sergeant Major in November 2008 if his Army career hadn’t been stalled after his arrest.

“It is no exaggeration now for me to tell you that his life is in tatters,” said Mr Jordan, who stressed Watson didn’t distribute any of the level five images. “Whatever else you do to him today, he has already greatly suffered.”

Watson, who was ten months short of his 22nd year of service, has lost out on a lump sum of £50,000 to £60,000 and will only receive half of his £720 monthly pension, which now won’t start until he’s 60.

Judge Andrew Barnett sentenced him to a three-year community order with supervision and a requirement to undertake a sexual offenders group work programme in a bid to rehabilitate him.

“Those images are perfectly disgusting and degrading images of children,” he said. “You should be bitterly ashamed of yourself.

“It is only right that you should know that generally speaking, people who do this go to prison for a very long time.

“The most significant feature is that you have recognised the problem and you want to do something about it, and in my judgement society will be very much better off if I take a different course from that which was originally in my mind.

“The sooner you go on that course and see if you can address the problem, the better for you and for the community.”

Watson will also be subject to a seven-year sexual offences prevention order and must sign the sex offenders register for three years