Accrington vicar, who had more than 3,000 child abuse images avoids jail

A disgraced vicar who was suspended from duties after admitting to possessing thousands of child abuse images has narrowly avoided a custodial prison sentence.

Rev Tom Donaghey’s Baxenden vicarage was raided by officers in November and he was arrested, placed under investigation and suspended by Blackburn Diocese before leaving the church soon after.

Appearing at Burnley Crown Court on Tuesday, the 54-year-old, now of Bank Parade, Burnley, was handed a community order by Judge Richard Archer, after he pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children and one of possessing extreme pornographic images.

The court heard how Donaghey, who was a reverend at Baxenden St John Church, admitted his guilt to police before any of his devices could even be examined.

Prosecuting, Alaric Bassano, said: “The defendant’s wife was present when he was arrested and was shocked and distraught.

“He was interviewed before the devices were examined and admitted he had been downloading such imagery for about two years.

“He told police that at first it was just images of naturism, but then this progressed, and he began using search terms such as ‘under age’ and ‘Lolita’, and accessed images from the dark web.

The court was told how Donaghey, who was also chaplain at St Christopher’s High School in Accrington, had been about to adopt young twins with his wife, a process which has now been cancelled.

Upon analysis of his devices, police found 297 category A images, 468 category B images, and 2,823 category C pictures of children, with category A being the worst kind of image.

Officers also uncovered 46 images of extreme pornography, and one single moving image of category B in nature.

Mr Bassano continued: “None of the images showed any children in pain but some were between the ages of three and five and in one case, under the age of 12 months.

“He has voluntarily undergone counselling and has said he is ashamed and disgusted of himself.”

Judge Archer said: “By seeking out these images you were perpetuating the cycle of child abuse.

“It’s not just the downloading, it’s that such downloading and viewing creates a market for such material.”

Donaghey was handed a two year community order, told to complete 40 rehabilitation days, fined £100 and was made subject of a five year sexual harm prevention order with the relevant notification requirements.