January 2021

Man caught with indecent images of children avoids prison due to court delays

A man hoarding “unspeakable” images of children being sexually abused escaped prison following “outrageous negligence” in the justice system.

Graham Schofield, 63, from Herne Bay, was caught with 122 of the worst kinds of photographs in 2015, but it took five years to get him to court.

When police levelled excuses to an angry Judge Rupert Lowe for the unacceptable delay, he dismissed them as “just platitudes”.

Judge Lowe told prosecutors it was “impossible to do justice” five years after an offence, claiming the whole system “is not working.”

“The public would be appalled to know that somebody was arrested for very nasty indecent images and extreme pornographic images showing really unspeakable acts and the prosecution don’t get them to court until five years later,” he told Canterbury Crown Court.

“It is a systemic failing, and the point is that nobody will do anything about it, because nobody is responsible for the system, but it’s a systemic failing on the part of the prosecution.

“As far as a defendant and public is concerned, it is an outrageous negligence.”

The police raided Schofield’s Herne Bay home in September 2015 following a tip-off from intelligence agencies.

Officers discovered the 122 Category A photographs, as well as a stash of hundreds more indecent images of children, and extreme pornographic images – including bestiality – described by the judge as “really horrifying images”.

The benefit claimant tried lying his way out of police interviews in 2015 and 2018 by blaming acquaintances, despite some of the pictures being stored next to his bed.

But he pleaded guilty in October 2020 – more than five years after his arrest – following a long delay in getting the case to court.

The court was told one officer became overwhelmed with their workload during the case, and difficulties also emerged while looking through the images.

But the judge took aim at Kent Police’s further explanation for the delay, which appeared trite and vague.

Reading the excuses out loud, he said: “‘I’d like to reassure you that Kent Police is committed to protecting the public from harm…blah, blah, blah’, that’s just platitudes.”

The judge refused prosecutor Emin Kandola’s bid for Schofield to face a five-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

She had argued: “Once the matter has been dealt with in court, there will be nothing preventing further offences.”

But the judge retorted: “If the Crown had thought it necessary, they might have pulled their finger out and brought him to court before five years had elapsed.”

Judge Lowe handed Schofield a two-year community order, complete with a sex-offenders’ programme, alongside 20 further rehabilitation days, after hearing he held an “attitude of denial”.

“I fear that nobody will pay any attention to these remarks and things will carry on as before,” he said.

“However, this is such a bad example of negligence by the prosecutorial system it would be entirely wrong to impose any punitive element by way of punishment on you five years later.”

Schofield pleaded guilty to four counts of possessing indecent images before he was sentenced in December.

The case had only been handed to the Crown Prosecution Service by police in January 2020, and a charging decision was made the following month.