June 2011

Spared jail: Depressed pervert from Sale with 27,000 ‘vile’ images of kids

A housebound computer expert who downloaded more than 27,400 indecent images of children has been spared jail.

Wheelchair-bound Michael Wheeler, 58, became obsessed with obtaining images of girls as young as seven while spending days alone at his mother’s home. But he was spared prison after Minshull Street Crown Court heard he had been depressed after years of disability and being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer.

All but 69 of the images were at the lowest level of offending, but detectives also found a 15-minute video that was at the most extreme end of the scale. Jill Yates, prosecuting, said: “He told police he had been confined to a wheelchair since 2005 and had become very depressed. “He moved in with his mother because he needed support and began, while living there, to download images.

This became an obsession because he was housebound.” Wheeler, of Marsland Court, Sale, admitted 22 counts of making indecent images. The court heard police raided his home in June 2009 and seized his computer equipment after being tipped off he was ordering indecent images by post. He told officers he had an interest in girls featured in the images, but said he had downloaded the files in bulk and had not known what they all contained.

The court was told he had been a computer operator for companies in Britain and abroad, and had even designed computer games. But he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1982 and then rheumatoid arthritis in 2000. He has suffered from a rare form of leukaemia since 2007. Richard Littler, defending, said the internet was a ‘lifeline’ for housebound Wheeler, who he said had become depressed because of his disability.

He said: “He was in the flat alone with very few visitors for many years. The only thing he could do was go on the internet. Through curiosity he began to look at these sites. He’s embarrassed by his conduct and he wants to put it behind him.” Wheeler was jailed for four months for each of the offences to run concurrently, but his prison term was suspended for 12 months.

He will undergo supervision for 12 months and was subjected to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, which prohibits him from working with children or having unsupervised contact with any child under 16. Police officers can enter his home at any time and search his computer. He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for seven years.

Judge Jeffrey Lewis told Wheeler: “This must be a difficult day for you. You have no previous convictions. I accept you must be embarrassed or ashamed with what you have done. Notwithstanding the very unfortunate circumstances that have affected you in recent years, you cannot offer that as an excuse for this offending.”

Det Con John Weir, from Greater Manchester Police’s Sexual Crimes Unit, said after the case: “The actions of Wheeler and others who download and share illegal images like this fuel the trade of child sexual abuse. I want to send out a clear message to anyone who thinks they can get hold of these vile images and get away with it – you will be pursued, you will be and tracked down by the police and you will be brought before the courts.”