August 2017

Distinguished career saves Darlington man from jail for what judge calls ‘filthy’ offences

A  former serviceman’s double life as a depraved deviant was exposed when an international manhunt was launched to find people sharing pictures of child abuse.

Graham Chapman was caught up in Operation Tharsley – instigated by the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre – and arrested at his Darlington home in March last year.

When he was quizzed by police, the 54-year-old at first denied possessing or distributing indecent images of children even though there were almost 450 on his computer.

In a second interview, he confessed to entering a chat group which shared pictures, looking at them and saving them, and returning later when “curiosity got the better of me”.

Chapman – who, Teesside Crown Court heard, had served with distinction in the Royal Air Force for most of his adult life – dodged prison because of his impressive history.

Judge Sean Morris told him: “That’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ card, but it is something I am entitled to take into account. I am going to suspend this sentence.

“It is indicative of a positive good character which you used to have, and you no longer do. I suspect that you will find that harder than most people.

“It means you can be worked with by the Probation Service and the taxpayer doesn’t have to put up with enormous expense with prison, and everyone will be protected.”

Chapman, of Lanethorp Road, Darlington, admitted three charges of possessing indecent images of children, and was given a six-month jail term suspended for 18 months.

The court heard how during his 24 years service, he was awarded, among other things, a good conduct medal, Queen’s golden jubilee medal, and a commanding officer commendation.

Judge Morris told him: “These are filthy offences. These are children that are being looked at, not adults. You clearly became addicted to this sort of thing.

“But you have not distributed these images and there are no contact offences, and there is no suggestion that is your interest. You have a past which allows me to take this step.”

Chapman was also ordered to carry out 30 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement, and sign on the sex offenders’ register for the next seven years