A man who admitted downloading and sharing illegal images of children was spared a prison sentence on Wednesday.
Phillip Beaney, 59, of Horsham Road, Steyning, was given a six month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work, a one year supervision order, and £500 costs.
He had pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing indecent images of children, one count of possessing indecent images of children, and two counts of making indecent images by downloading them.
Prosecutor Natasha Dardashti said Beaney had originally pleaded not guilty to all five charges, but changed his pleas to guilty on the day his trial was due to begin.
She said Sussex Police Paedophile and Online Investigation Team traced him through his IP address after he had used chat rooms and channels for people with a sexual interest in children.
Officers searched Beaney’s house in August 2012, and he admitted to them that he had chatted ‘inappropriate things’ and had ‘read sites which are inappropriate about young girls’.
Interviewed by police, he provided the encryption keys and passwords which officers needed to access his files.
“He denied possession of indecent images of children,” she said.
“He said that on two occasions he’d been sent emails which had opened themselves, and he’d deleted them.”
At a later interview, he said he’d been sent a .exe file containing child pornography images, but he’d tried to delete them all.
However, forensic analysis showed he had received the images across a range of dates.
He was charged with distributing images because he had shared up to 30 of those images using Yahoo’s file sharing service.
Julian Dale, representing Beaney, provided four letters of reference from his friends and family.
He said three of the charges concerned a ‘relatively small number of cartoon images’, and that only a few of the images had been distributed, to a few recipients.
Mr Dale added that Beaney had suffered serious bereavements around the time he committed the offences.
“It was a deeply unhappy time for this defendant, and he sought to console himself in entirely the wrong way.
“He’s deeply ashamed of his actions, and he’s very lucky to have family who support him.”
Sentencing, Judge Anthony Scott-Gall told him: “The nature of this offending, as you undoubtedly appreciate, is totally distasteful and distressing.”
He said the chatrooms Beaney had belonged to were: “A disgusting and disgraceful medium, where men of a certain age and disposition talk to each other in the most obscene and ghastly language about the things they’d like to do to ten year old girls.”
However, Judge Scott-Gall added that he had read the reference letters from Beaney’s family and friends: “They paint a picture that’s so different from the sad little man sitting in his attic, hunched over his computer, living in a fantasy world of having sex with ten year old girls.”
Sending Beaney to prison for the short time allowed by the sentencing guidelines would ‘solve no problems’, he added.
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