June 2003

Child porn sentence under fire

A CHILDREN’S entertainer from Wickwar has escaped a prison sentence after committing a string of child pornography offences.

Gary Phillips, 44, formerly from Yate, was ordered by Bristol Crown Court last Thursday to attend a police sex offender programme and serve a three-year community rehabilitation order. His name will be on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

At an earlier hearing Phillips admitted 22 charges of downloading indecent images from the internet and two of filming children.

The court heard that the part-time coach driver and magician had used mirrors on the floor of his bus to look up girls’ skirts as he drove them to school. He also secretly videoed up girls’ skirts during his magic act.

Phillips was arrested after a member of the public had seen him acting suspiciously with a digital camera on a beach in Newquay. The camera was found to contain images of young children removing their clothes.

Police raided his home and discovered a detailed database containing hundreds of images and comments relating to children’s underwear and appearance. His database of pictures and comments dated back to 1991.

They also found hundreds of indecent images downloaded from the internet. Rosemary Collins, defending, said that her client was a decent, hard-working man.

“The level of obscenity, if I can put it that way, is largely very low. Most of the images are the sort of thing one can see up and down the street,” she stated.

Sentencing Phillips, Judge Lester Bootham said: “It is absolutely plain to me that you need help – anybody who has looked at the images can see that.

“But the images do not fall into the most serious categories that come before this court.”

Judge Bootham told Phillips, who is married, that, because he would get no specialised help in prison, a community penalty would be imposed.

But child welfare group Kidscape condemned the fact that the judge had allowed Phillips back into the community.

Spokeswoman Michelle Elliot said: “This sentence sends a clear message to other people inclined to do this that they won’t go to prison.

“It’s ridiculous. We can’t understand the logic of not putting people who carry out this kind of practice in prison.”