Top Thurrock police chief escapes prison over indecent images of under-age boys
A senior officer with Essex police caught with indecent images of underage boys he had chatted up on social media sites was spared jail today (FRI).
Ben Hodder, 34, former district commander for Thurrock, was sent pictures of a naked 15-year-old by a 16-year-old, who had been chatting with the police chief on social network site Kik.com.
He had also saved four indecent images of another 15-year-old whose identity was never discovered.
Sentencing, Judge David Radford gave Hodder a six month jail term, suspended for two years.
Hodder, who was police commander of Thurrock for two years, was dressed in a grey shirt and black tie, as he sat in the dock, most of the time with his head bowed, as both the prosecution and defence put forward their cases.
The court heard that in April, 2014, the authorities became aware of photographs after a boy (who cannot be named for legal reasons) spoke to his mother about conversations that he was having on internet chat rooms.
After the police analysed the electronic communications, they traced a number of matters to Hodder.
Hodder was arrested at his Chafford Hundred home in April, 2014.
The court heard that one of the images was a Category B image and four were of Category C. All made between November and December, 2013.
Speaking in mitigation of Hodder, barrister, Allan Compton said: “This is a huge fail from grace for my client…a personal tragedy. He is still a serving police officer but his dismissal is simply a matter of time.
He had just broken up with a partner after a long term relationship and went on a reckless, promiscuous binge, as he went onto internet chat sites.
“The site in question has an age verification tab but as we have seen this was over-ridden.
“On searching his premises, the police seized I-Pads, cameras and computers but although the hard drive revealed thousands of filmed images, they were all legal images.
“There is also no evidence that Hodder used his position as a police officer or ever mentioned it, There is no evidence that he attempted to groom anyone.
“He now has a new partner of six months and does not go onto chat rooms after this devastating experience”.
Sentencing Hodder to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, Judge David Radford said: “One cannot underestimate the impact of these proceedings.
“Proceedings that undermine the public confidence in the police force.
You are an experienced police officer yet were reckless enough to believe that the website in question would only have adults on it.
“You have brought shame on your profession”.
Hodder was also required to sign the sex offenders register and will remain on it for seven years.
He is also the subject of a curfew between 10pm and 6am. His internet activity will also be monitored and will pay a £1,200 fine
A special case hearing will take place on Friday, April 24, where his future employment with the force will be considered. A criminal conviction of this nature would ordinarily result in the dismissal of the officer.
Top Thurrock police chief pleads guilty to indecent child image charge
Top Thurrock police chief Ben Hodder pleaded guilty this morning to a charge of making indecent images of children.
Hodder, who has been suspended as the district commander in Thurrock since his arrest, faced two charges of making indecent images of children.
It’s alleged five indecent images of children were discovered on an Apple MacBook and four on an Apple iPhone.
He pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court to the charge of making category B and C images of a child.
Hodder, who looked stricken in the dock, pleaded not guilty to the charge of making of category A images.
Both the charges relate to images made in July 2010 and between November and December 2013.
Hodder will be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register following sentencing on April 17 2015 at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
Hodder, 34, of San Marcos Drive, Chafford Hundred, began his career policing the streets of Basildon and Grays before moving onto become district commander in Harlow in April 2010.
The chief inspector later moved to become divisional commander in Thurrock.
His case was transferred to Snaresbrook Crown Court from Basildon Magistrates Court due to his policing links to Essex county.