November 2020

Bridgwater pensioner found with more than 12,000 indecent pictures of young children walks free

A Bridgwater pensioner who was found with more than 12,000 indecent pictures of young children has walked free from court with a suspended prison sentence.

Michael Foster had a visit from bailiffs who had come to his property to seize items in lieu of debts when they made the shocking discovery.

They found the place littered with indecent printed photographs of children aged as young as six, and when the police were alerted they discovered thousands of images had been downloaded on internet devices.

Among the haul they also came across extreme pornographic photographs involving humans and animals along with a number of stories that the defendant had penned himself, detailing indecent acts with youngsters.

He was arrested and confessed he had been downloading child porn for around 10 years after first buying a book while visiting Amsterdam.

When he appeared in the dock at Taunton Crown Court, Judge Paul Cook said that although the images “disclosed a lamentable and tragic record of abuse which was sickening and disturbing” he believed the defendant’s risk of re-offending could be managed in the community.

He sentenced Foster to a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, along with a community order with 45 Rehabilitation Activity Days and a requirement to attend the accredited sex offenders’ programme.

He also imposed a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order where Foster will be subject to a number of stringent conditions including being prohibited from owning or using any device that accesses the internet unless it can retain the browsing history; must not delete any browsing history and must make all devices available for inspection when requested by the police.

Foster, 70, pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children between September 4, 2009 and February 15, 2019.

He also admitted further allegations of possession of indecent images of children and possession of extreme images of pornography involving images that were grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character involving a person performing sexual acts with animals.

Dominik Morton, prosecuting, said that bailiffs attended the defendant’s address on February 16 last year due to missed mortgage payments and were in the process of repossessing the property.

“The bailiffs were given access and discovered a number of indecent images of children in paper format around the property, so notified the estate agent who called the police,” he said.

“Officers attended and seized a number of electronic devices, six USB sticks, two laptops, two computer towers and one hard drive which were forensically examined and found to contain thousands of images.”

The images discovered comprised 3,725 in the most serious category A, of which 693 were unique and the remaining were duplicate copies.

There were also 5,935 in category B, of which 1,082 were unique and 3,011 in category C, of which 684 were unique and three images of extreme pornography.

Mr Morton said there were also a large number of folders found around the property containing indecent images and stories involving young boys engaged in sexual acts.

He added that there were a large number of aggravating features in the case due to the age and vulnerability of the victims involved, the period of time that the offences were committed, and the high volume of images recovered.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Cook told Foster that his interest in child sexual offending was demonstrated by the stories he had written.

He said the defendant had “demonstrated some insight” and appreciated that his offending was not victimless because every image involved a victim who had been abused and traumatised.

Alongside the suspended sentence and sexual harm prevention order he ordered him to pay £425 costs and made an order for the images to be destroyed.