Couple avoid prison over thousands of indecent child images

A couple have avoided an immediate prison sentence after they admitted possessing thousands of the most serious category of child sex abuse images.

Paul Anthony Lawton and Ray Brian Steven Westrop “hoarded” the still and moving images at their Bournemouth home over a 17-year period.

Bournemouth Crown Court was told that ‘over one million’ images were found on various electronic devices and in printed material but not all of them were fully processed by police.

Officers cease the effort to sorting and categorising all of the images found due to the number that had been found.

Of those that were assessed, 3,479 were category A – the most serious. There were also 2,463 category B, 7,560 category C and 18 extreme pornography images.

Judge Stephen Climie told Lawton, 55, and Westrop, 61, that while their offences involved just the downloading of images, they were still “sexual abusers” and “complicit” in child abuse.

He said if there had been “even the slightest” element of the defendants being involved in committing physical abuse or approaching children themselves, the sentences would have been immediate custody.

Prosecuting, Catherine Flint told the court at a hearing on April 6 that police officers executed a warrant of the defendants’ home in Wollstonecraft Road in September 2017 after internet activity concerning child sex images had been traced to Westrop.

Officers found various electronic devices and both men were arrested.

Ms Flint described the number of images found from the search warrant as “very large” and “over one million”, with downloads dating back to 2000.

She said the defendants, who had been together for more than 30 years, made admissions in interview about the images and “being sexually attracted to children”.

Judge Climie sentenced Lawton and Westrop to 20 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after they admitting four counts of possessing indecent images of children – a charge for each category.

They were made subject to a tagged six-month curfew, which specified they must remain at their home address between 7pm and 7am.

There was also an order to complete up to 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and each pay £215 costs.

The men were made subject to sex offenders register requirements and a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.