March 2011

Ex-minister Spencer Gilchrist gets probation over images

A former Church of Ireland minister who admitted downloading child abuse images, has been given three years probation.

Spencer Gilchrist, who admitted 22 charges of making indecent photographs, or pseudo photos of a child, must take part in a special treatment programme.

Gilchrist, 45, formerly of Church Road, Kells, has resigned as a minister.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Corinne Philpott said the sentence would allow him to “address his problems”.

As part of his sentence Gilchrist was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the next five years.

He was also banned from using a computer without consent of the authorities over the same period and communicating with under 18-year-olds or undertaking any academic studies away from home.

The offences occurred on various dates between 2006 and 2009.

Judge Philpott said she did not accept Gilchrist’s job was an aggravating feature in law.

However, she added that given “his standing and his obvious educational achievements” one would have “expected better” of Gilchrist, whose “heavy drinking also played a part in the commission of these offences”.

It was also accepted by the prosecution that the material had not been copied or saved or distributed to any other person, nor had he an account or special passwords from the sites.

“They accept the defence case that he found the sites from surfing the web, that is going from legal adult pornographc sites of a hard porographic nature until links to these sites appeared,” said Judge Philpott.

At an earlier court hearing a prosecution lawyer said police initially took away a lap-top computer during a planned search of Gilchrist’s home in June 2009.

However, the cleric later told police of a second computer which was being stored in his garage.