April 2015

Prison officer working on sex offenders’ wing caught with child abuse images

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A PRISON officer from East Lancashire who worked on the sex offenders’ wing at a leading jail was caught with nearly 2,000 indecent images of pre-pubescent girls, a court heard.

Detectives acting on a tip-off swooped on Andrew Webster as he was finishing a shift at HMP Strangeways in Manchester on February 28, Burnley Crown Court was told.

He was taken to Burnley police station while a search was conducted at his home in the town’s Beechwood Avenue.

Stephen Parker, prosecuting, said several items of computer equipment were seized and Webster was asked if any of them might contain indecent images.

But he exercised his right to silence.

Later a laptop computer and USB stick were analysed by the police’s high-tech crime unit. These items were found to contain around 2,000 indecent images of girls aged eight and upwards.

But Webster, now of Simmons Way, Clayton-le-Moors, who admitted making indecent images, insisted he gained no sexual gratification from watching the images.

Kevin Donnelly, defending, said his client — a former soldier with no previous convictions — had been having serious difficulties coping at work.

Mr Donnelly said: “He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and this has manifested itself in a rather unusual manner.

“His account is that his viewing of this material is a form of self-harm, of torturing himself, as a form of psychological self-harm.

“He is adamant that he does not gain sexual gratification from looking at images of children.”

Mr Donnelly said that Webster was well aware of the court’s sentencing powers and had arrived at court with a packed bag, to await his fate.

Webster was given a three-year probation supervision order and a sexual-harm prevention order for an indefinite period.

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