August 2013

Blind judge unable to view evidence in child abuse images case

A blind judge has adjourned sentence in a child abuse images case so that a fully sighted colleague can view the video in question.

John Lafferty, Britain’s first full-time blind circuit judge, was unable to rule on the severity of the images. Philip Hawkins, 63, of Stepney, could face up to four years in jail, depending on the outcome. At Snaresbrook crown court, Judge Lafferty told him: “I am happy to allow a judge who can more aptly see the video to pass  sentence and decide which category this falls into.”

Hawkins has convictions dating back to the Eighties for child abduction, taking indecent photos of children and sexual activity with a child, the court heard. He was found guilty of indecently assaulting an 11-year-old boy in a swimming pool five years ago and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register, with conditions including not viewing child abuse images.

However, he admitted breaching the conditions after police found a video on his computer in January featuring a woman and a boy having sex. Hawkins will be sentenced by another judge next month.