Essex

Essex vicar found with indecent images of children

Vicar Peter Low Image copyright Chris Radburn/PA
Image caption Vicar Peter Low admitted possessing dozens of indecent images of children

A vicar who reported a break-in at his home has been sentenced for possessing indecent images of children.

The Reverend Peter Low, 65, was caught by police investigating a burglary in Heybridge, Essex, in July 2016.

Nothing had been stolen but his handwriting was matched with explicit stories involving children that were posted through neighbours' letterboxes.

He was then found with dozens of indecent images - including nine in the most serious category A, a court heard.

Low was given a three-year community order and has been suspended from his duties as a vicar with the United Benefice of Heybridge in Essex.

He will also face a further church inquiry.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard earlier that Low, of Crescent Road, Heybridge, was arrested when police identified his authorship of the explicit leaflets in the course of fingerprint elimination enquiries.

The leaflets featured "handwritten fantasy stories" with photographs of "scantily clad" children aged between about nine to 12 years old.

Officers seized Low's computer and more than 124 child images were then discovered. It is not thought the vicar knew any of his victims.

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At a previous hearing he pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing indecent images of children and one count of possessing prohibited images of children.

Image copyright Wikipedia/Creative Commons
Image caption Peter Low admits offences at Chelmsford Crown Court

Sentencing, Judge Jeremy Benson imposed a 36-month community order, telling him: "You have previously led an unblemished life and served the community in your position."

Low was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and a five-year sexual harm prevention order was imposed. He must also sign the sex offenders' register.

An NSPCC spokesman said Low's actions "have helped fuel an abhorrent online trade".

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chelmsford said that Low would face a church investigation and could be banned from ministry for life.

"We take a zero-tolerance approach to child abuse," he added.

"The crime of online child abuse was no less serious because the victims were unknown to the perpetrator and did not come from any of the parishes in which he had worked.

"Mr Low remains suspended pending a disciplinary process which can now begin," he continued.

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