March 2012

Newtownabbey man jailed for child porn images and film

A man who admitted having sexually indecent photographs and films of children as young as six has been given an 18-month sentence.

Joseph Heron, 50, from Dorchester Crescent, Newtownabbey, pleaded guilty to 23 charges of possessing or downloading over 300 images to his computer.

The offences took place over a four-year period to 28 July 2010.

Heron was also put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.

Belfast Recorder Judge Tom Burgess, who ordered Heron to serve nine months in jail, followed by nine months supervised licensed parole, said he was getting the lenient sentence because of his prior service to the community as a fireman in which he had risked his life.

Although the Belfast Crown Court judge accepted Heron’s remorse was both real and genuine, his claims that he had not gone out to look for this material on his computer carried little weight with the court.

Judge Burgess said that downloading the images perpetuated the market for such material, adding to the suffering and continued emotional damage of the children depicted.

The judge added that while those children may be far removed from this jurisdiction, their rights were just as real as those of children living here.


Judge Burgess said that Heron had already paid a heavy price because of his offending, but that was less than the scars left on the children, who, unlike him, will have no opportunity of leading a full and happy life.

Earlier, defence QC Paul Ramsey told the court that Heron was effectively ruined in his family and professional life and that the consequences for the disgraced fireman were great.

Mr Ramsey said that while his wife was supportive of him, they will more than likely have to move home, on top of which Heron will lose his job and that the future for him looked very bleak.

The defence lawyer also said that the vast majority of the indecent images, 75%, were in the lowest end of the scale in category one, although he admitted a further 10% were in the higher category four.

Prosecution lawyer Tessa Kitson said that initially Heron claimed he had been working on his computer innocently, and had not actively searched for such images, and that they had just popped up.

Ms Kitson said of the total of 316 images of what were quite clearly children, not teenagers – the first of which was downloaded in June 2006 – the majority, 306 were photographs, while the remainder were film clips.

However, there was no suggestion that Heron had either distributed or swapped any of the material with others.