Northern Ireland

Child images man Daniel George Clarke avoids jail term

Belfast Crown Court
Image caption Clarke appeared before Belfast Crown Court

A man who had over 1,000 images of child sex abuse has avoided jail so he does not come under the influence of more dangerous sex offenders.

A judge told Daniel George Clarke three years of intense probation supervision and work would ultimately best serve and safeguard both him and society.

Clarke, 23, from Coronation Road in Carrickfergus, admitted 23 charges of downloading the images.

He also pleaded guilty to one of distributing some of them.

Clarke was put on the Sex Offenders' Register and made subject to a five-year Sex Offenders Prevention Order.

Belfast Crown Court heard that following a police search of his home in November 2013, Clarke admitted looking for the images and sharing them with others on an internet chat site.

A defence lawyer said while a remorseful Clarke knew it was both wrong and illegal, he went looking for more images after they were "burnt into his brain" after he initially "stumbled" upon them on the internet.

The judge said that downloading images of child sex abuse was not a victimless crime, and while the children were unknown to Clarke and police, they were individuals subjected to the most appalling abuse and lives of physical degradation.

"These are not just pictures, they are actual people," he added.

'Malevolent and manipulative influence'

Judge McFarland said it was accepted Clarke's guilty pleas were based on genuine remorse and that there were many positive aspects to his life, notwithstanding his serious offending.

The Crown Court judge added, while on one view the custody threshold had been passed, he had to consider the impact of such a sentence, as in Clarke's case it would be a minimal jail term of between two to three months.

Judge McFarland said this would be served in the prison's sex offenders secure unit where Clarke would be exposed to the more dangerous elements of sex offending.

He said spending even two months in their presence and under their "malevolent and manipulative influence" would not result in a positive outcome either for Clarke or ultimately society.

The judge added that he preferred the suggested alternative contained in the pre-sentence report, advocating an intense period of supervision by probation during which time Clarke would undertake any course work they deemed necessary.

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