UK

Ex-Cameron aide Patrick Rock on trial over child images offences

Patrick Rock (file picture) Image copyright PA
Image caption Patrick Rock denies all of the charges against him

A former aide to Prime Minister David Cameron has gone on trial accused of possessing and downloading indecent images of children.

Patrick Rock, 64, who worked as deputy director of policy at Downing Street, denies all 20 charges against him.

Mr Rock, of Fulham, south-west London, admits downloading 20 separate images of nine young girls in 2013, but denies they are indecent.

At the time of the downloading, all but one of the girls was aged 14 or under.

The prosecution argued the images showed girls, although not naked, in "sexual" poses that drew attention to their genital and breast areas, and asked the jury to decide if each image, when looked at separately, was indecent.

The jury was shown the images, which featured girls aged 10 to 16, posing in clothing including bikinis, hot pants and a bra, and a ballet tutu.

Prosecutor Thomas Forster told the jury at Southwark Crown Court that because the ages of the girls were given at the time of downloading, they must have been younger when the photographs were taken.

Mr Forster said: "The clothing the children are wearing is sometimes adult in style - indeed what an adult might consider sexualised or erotic clothing.

"The child is photographed in a pose that is deliberately sexual in tone, because they are scantily clad and/or their legs are often apart and/or they are showing their bottoms to the camera."

'Looking and clicking'

Sasha Wass QC, defending, said her client is a man of good character and asked the jury to consider the charges in the context of modern society.

She said the photos contained no nudity and described the girls in the photographs as models, saying: "Think swimwear models in catalogues".

Ms Wass also referred to some of the images as being comparable to the poses seen in the video for Britney Spears' song Baby One More Time, adding that the singer was under 16 at the time.

Ms Wass said some men "would rather look at a fresh-faced teenager than a woman their own age".

She went on to talk about what she described as author Lewis Carroll's fixation with 10-year-old Alice Liddell, his inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.

Ms Wass said "there was no suggestion that Patrick Rock ever paid to view these images" and that "all that he did was looking and clicking".

She added that we lived in a society where there was "an allure that is youth", saying: "Before deciding that a man of 64 with no criminal convictions should be convicted as a criminal, you might want to bring to mind other images of young girls that are freely available."

Ms Wass added that there seemed to be an "element of madness that is allowed to dictate what is considered to be decent".

Judge Alistair McCreath told the jurors they would have to decide whether the images were indecent in the eyes of an average member of society, rather than basing their decisions on their own personal views.

He said: "The word 'indecent' has no particular legal meaning.

"At one end is the downright obscene and at the other is that which is distasteful. Somewhere in between is that which is indecent. Indecent is against the law, bad taste is not."

The jury has been sent home for the day and will continue its deliberations on Wednesday.