May 2021

Sentence delayed as judge demands further checks on paedophile’s computer

A judge asked for more work to be done after it emerged that the police had only categorised around a thousand images out of around half a million found on a paedophile’s computers.

Stephen Soar, 52, had expected to be sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on Friday after he admitted possession of more than 1,350 child sex abuse images – with the majority, 1,321, in the lowest category.

But Judge Peter Crabtree adjourned the case until July after telling the court that hundreds of thousands of files on the Swindon defendant’s computer had not been examined by police expert.

He questioned why the police had only categorised around 1,000 images. 

“At the moment I am disinclined to sentence Mr Soar today because I have no idea where this 1,000 threshold comes from but it is ludicrous in my view if it is worked on the basis of an arbitrary approach if someone looked on the USB stick,” he told prosecutor Charles Digby. 

Judge Crabtree added: “It gives the court absolutely no idea what the real gravity of the offending is. I don’t want to waste police time, I well understand that, but one would have thought that in fairness to Mr Soar he said candidly those are the two devices – the laptop and the computer tower – where you will find the more serious items. I would have thought as a matter of common sense someone would have needed to look a bit more thoroughly.”  

And he said he did not know what the other images on Soar’s computer showed. 

The judge told Mr Digby: “I think I’m going to send it back and say I need a little bit more information, at least there needs to be a discussion between the prosecution and defence counsel as to what would be an acceptable basis for sentence.”

Soar, of Lincoln Street, Swindon, was bailed to return to the crown court for sentence on July 2.