Jail limit for downloading child sex abuse angers judge

A judge has criticised sentencing restrictions that prevent tougher jail terms for people convicted of downloading images of child abuse.

Judge Christopher Elwen's comments came as he allowed a former scout leader to walk free from Truro Crown Court.

Damian Gough, 49, formerly of Tregullow Road, Falmouth, Cornwall, was found with hundreds of pictures of abuse.

The judge said jailing Gough for about six weeks - the most he would serve - was a "waste of time".

Gough was made the subject of a three-year community order and banned from working with or living with children.

'Appalling exploitation'

The court was told Gough led a scout group and took children's liturgy services at his local church.

He was found with pictures and videos of children being sexually abused.

They were on his home computer and on DVDs when Devon and Cornwall Police raided his home in October last year.

Gough, who now lives in a Salvation Army hostel in Birmingham, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 15 counts of making indecent images of children.

'Appalling effect'

Judge Elwen told Gough the sentencing guidelines were "wrong" not to allow tougher sentences for people like him.

"Given your voluntary activities in the past, if the News of the World still existed it would be having a field day," the judge said.

He said the children depicted were exploited in a way that would have an appalling psychological effect on them, if not a physical impact.

"Without people like you prepared to surf the internet and download this disgusting material there is a chance a stop could be made to the exploitation of these innocent and vulnerable people," Judge Elwen said.

The only way to prevent the abuse of the children would be if "very stiff" custodial sentences were handed out to people who viewed the material, he said.

"Whilst the prison term would punish you - one of the purposes of sentencing - it would do nothing to ensure your rehabilitation and it would not deter anyone," Judge Elwen added.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "In general terms, the maximum sentences available for taking, making and possessing indecent images of children are 10 years' custody or five years for possession.

"Sentencing guidelines provide judges with a guide on how to sentence in individual cases.

"Sex offenders are also required to sign the Sex Offenders Register and may be banned from a number of activities," they added.

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