March 2013

Birkdale resident Stephen Callaghan, 64, admits downloading 15,000 child abuse images

A SOUTHPORT man became addicted to child porn after the break-up of his marriage and the death of his parents, a court heard on Monday.

Stephen Callaghan had been involved in the family-run Silcock leisure business but was “removed after his divorce and found himself cast adrift,” said his lawyer.

He was also estranged from his children and threw himself into caring for his elderly parents but after they died he was lonely.

“Labouring under the malaise of depression and idleness he set on a self-destructive way of dealing with his depression,” said James Smith.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that this involved downloading more than 15,000 indecent images of children involving photographs, movies and animated cartoons in all five categories of seriousness.

Mandy Patel, prosecuting, said that the images were discovered after a legitimate ‘build-a-recipe’ website was hacked in March 2010 and thousands of indecent images of children uploaded to it.

Police found that Callaghan, 64, had downloaded 470 of the images and his laptop and seven CDs were seized in May the following year.

He admitted ‘looking out of curiousity and said he had some sexual attraction to girls aged 13 -15 years.’

“He did not appear to have victim empathy,” said Miss Patel.

When interviewed Callaghan said he had gained gratification because he had no job and no prospects of meeting anybody and was depressed, she added. He described his behaviour as “a cry for help.”

Callaghan, of York Road, Birkdale, pleaded guilty to 12 offences of making indecent images and eight of possessing them.

Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, said that he would have sentenced him to ten months imprisonment suspended for two years but as he would not receive the help he needs he instead made a three-year community order. He must attend the demanding Northumbria Sex Offenders programme and is banned from working with children. The judge also ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years and made an order, lasting seven years, restricting his internet use.

Callaghan was also told to pay £750 court costs.

The judge said: “Good character can be lost in a split second and having lost it it will take you the rest of your life to re-establish yourself.”

Mr Smith said that Callaghan, who has no previous convictions, is supported by his daughters and was working on a house they own as he likes to keep busy.