November 2019

Convicted sex offender re-offends

A convicted sex offender secretly sought out indecent images of children despite his recent released from prison for a similar offence.

Stephen Russell, from Ashford, was previously given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to stop him accessing and sharing indecent images of children.

In May 2017 the 56-year-old breached that order by making and distributing indecent images of children and was jailed for eight months.

After his release, he was visited regularly by the probation service and on one visit more indecent images of children were found on a device they suspected belonged to him.

It took a complex investigation to gather enough evidence to prove it, but he eventually pleaded guilty to publishing an obscene article and two breaches of an SHPO.

Russell also admitted failing to comply with the notification requirements of his SHPO. He was sentenced on Wednesday (December 4) at Guildford Crown Court to two years and four months in prison.

A new SHPO has been issued and he was ordered to pay £340 in court costs

November 2008

Man shared child abuse images with online paedophiles

AN Ashford man has avoided being sent to prison for distributing child pornography despite the judge branding his crimes “abhorrent”.

Instead , Stephen Russell who was caught with 120 indecent images of children, was placed on a three-year probation order under which he will have to take part in a course designed to treat sex offenders.

Russell was caught after detectives in Cheshire discovered the 45-year-old was sending indecent images to other online paedophiles under their surveillance.

In total he admitted 16 charges – three of downloading indecent images of children, 12 of distributing child pornography and one of possession of indecent images of children.

Images found on Russell’s computer following a raid by police on May 31 last year showed girls as young as eight in their underwear, and others aged between eight and 12 being sexually abused.

At Kingston Crown Court on Friday, Judge Shani Barnes said she was constrained by legal guidelines which meant, if she had handed down a prison sentence, it would have been for a period of around six weeks.

“These, in my view, are always serious offences,” she told Russell, who had worked for Transport for London as a bus driver but was described in court as a full-time carer for his elderly mother.

“These children have undoubtedly been abused, violated and damaged and the idea of any adult gaining any pleasure from these images is abhorrent.”

As part of his sentence, Russell will have to take part in a sex offender group work programme in Thames Valley, be monitored by the Probation Service and sign the sex offenders’ register.

The Probation Service had advised that “the level of offending is so serious that a custodial sentence may be unavoidable”.

“I have some comfort in knowing that if you breach this order there will be breach proceedings,” Judge Barnes told Russell, of Portland Road.

“I reserve that to myself and if you breach this programme you will be going to prison.

“I have been prepared to step back from the custody threshold. What I have had to ask myself is would six weeks in prison be of any benefit to the public and these children who I have a duty to protect?

“I have passed a sentence that marks the gravity of the offence but that is also designed to stop you offending.”

The judge also ordered the destruction of the hard drive of the computer on which the images were found.