‘Extremely successful’ man caught with 1,800 images of child abuse
A second-year PhD student studying astrophysics at the University of Hull walked free from court despite having more than 1,800 indecent images and videos of children and discussing abusing children on online chat rooms.
Hull Crown Court heard that Alexander Hamilton, 35, had been caught out when police identified him uploading an indecent image on to one of those chat rooms from his parents’ house in Essex.
The court heard Hamilton initially denied having any knowledge of it when police visited him in Hull in March 2018, but admitted responsibility when they said they would have to carry out a warrant at his parents’ address too.
A number of devices were eventually recovered from both his and his parents’ addresses, the court heard, showing Hamilton had been in possession of 1,817 indecent images, including 62 videos, over an eight-year period.
Those included 554 ‘Category A’ images, the worst category, defined as “involving penetrative sexual activity” or “sexual activity with an animal or sadism” in the Crown Prosecution Service’s sexual offences guidelines.
Police also recovered an online discussion with another individual about abusing a five-year-old and seven or eight-year-old children.
Prosecuting, Richard Woolfall told the court Hamilton said he had been “struggling for a number of years” and would regularly delete all the images before being lured back on to the chat rooms by his “urges”.
“He was more interested in the discussions about abuse of children rather than the images,” Mr Woolfall said.
“He said he preferred category B and C images, those of Category A showing distress sickened him, and at that point he would stop and delete everything.”
He said Hamilton admitted he would masturbate when viewing the images and accepted that he needed help.
He accepted that he had urges, but he never acted on those urges,” Mr Woolfall said.
“He did not sexually abuse any children himself but did discuss abuse in the chat rooms.
“Such exchanges were fantasy, but once it moved to a degree of torture or a pair of very young children he would leave.”
But it was those urges, Mr Woolfall said, that eventually led to his downfall.
“He had uploaded images and he knew he might have been caught, but his mindset was such that he did not think rationally,” he said.
“It was a compulsion he had.”
Mitigating for Hamilton, Timothy Clark said: “There has been an unusual level of honesty in accepting that he has a problem.
“Since the police came into his life in March 2018, he has had to have conversations with family members and those involved in his education on matters that must have been really difficult for his family to hear.
He added that Hamilton’s studies were “on hold” and that it would be for the university to decide if he could continue with his course.
Sentencing Hamilton, Judge Bury said: “You are a highly intelligent man, you do not need me to tell you the seriousness of your position.
“You have, over a long period, accessed a large number of indecent images of children – over 550 of the most serious category.
“Each image of a child represents an instance of abuse of that child. That is why these offences are serious.
“Because people like yourself look at images like these, there is a market for them, which is why children continue to be abused.”
But despite Hamilton’s offending “clearly crossing the custody threshold”, Judge Bury said he would suspend his sentence.
“You have no previous convictions and your attitude, one of self-loathing and a desire to right yourself, is such that you may be amenable to counselling and treatment to prevent you from reoffending,” he said.
“But any repetition, particularly during the terms of suspension, and it’s custody next time, do you understand that?”
“Yes,” Hamilton said, looking up for the first time in the hearing.
For the possession of the indecent images, Judge Bury sentenced Hamilton to a total of eight months, suspended for eighteen months.
He will also be required to attend up to 20 rehabilitation activity days.
But Judge Bury did not include a curfew in the requirements after Mr Clark made a request on behalf of Hamilton’s parents, who said his mental health is often at its worst when alone in the evenings.