Jan 2006

Porn shame man ‘exploited’ children

A 54-year-old man who downloaded thousands of pornographic images of children as young as eight “exploited and abused” them for his own needs, a court heard.

Peter Darling, of Reed Close, Maidstone, appeared at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court for sentencing after admitting child porn charges last month.

Prosecutor Jo Cope told the court how Kent Police raided the home Darling shared with his wife in Larkfield on June 9 last year, as part of Operation Ore, working jointly with United States’ officers.

A computer and DVDs were seized, from which police retrieved more than 4,000 indecent images of children between eight and 16.

Darling was arrested three days later at Stansted Airport as he returned home from a working trip in Spain, the court heard.

Mrs Cope said Darling used special software to access online newsgroups and images that would normally have been blocked by online companies such as AOL.

Andrew Main, defending, persuaded the bench not to impose an order, recommended in a pre-sentence report, that would have banned Darling from speaking to children or having photographs of youngsters in his home.

Mr Main said that the majority of pictures, while featuring naked children, were not of an explicit nature. He said: “This was a man who sits in his study and looks at child pornography, not someone who preys on young children.”

But Adrian Atmore, the court chairman, said Darling, through his online habits, had exploited and abused children to meet his own needs.

He said: “You can be assured that if you hadn’t pleaded guilty the sentence would have been far more serious. We have seen letters that describe you as a pillar of the community, of good character and integrity.

“However, by your behaviour and actions you have thrown that integrity away.”

Darling admitted 13 counts of possessing indecent photographs/pseudo photographs and one count of making an indecent photograph/pseudo photograph.

The court imposed a three year community order, and a destruction order concerning a computer hard drive and other seized items. His name will be placed on sex offenders’ register for five years. He was ordered to complete a Thames Valley sex offenders’ programme and ordered to pay £43 prosecution costs.