WhatsApp 'snake porn' prosecution questioned by judge
A judge has questioned whether prosecuting a man who was sent "snake porn" via a WhatsApp messaging group was in the public interest.
Former rugby coach Mark Glew, 22, was one of 44 members who received the "grossly offensive" movies and photos.
Glew admitted possessing extreme pornography, including images of bestiality involving a snake and a cow.
Sentencing at Swindon Crown Court, Judge Robert Pawson asked whether the case had been worth pursuing.
He told the court that in "light of all the circumstances" it seemed to him a "sledgehammer" had been used "to crack a very small nut indeed".
A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokeswoman said: "We were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prove the images Mark Glew had in his possession were extreme.
"We considered that the prosecution was in the public interest because these images/videos were at the highest scale of extreme pornography, as they showed serious harm to a human being."
The court heard Glew had been arrested in November 2017 over an unrelated allegation, which was later dropped.
During investigations, police found material "portraying an act which resulted, or was likely to result in, serious injury to a person's anus and genitals" on his phone.
Carl Buckley, defending, said Glew had joined the WhatsApp group to get details of upcoming matches and players.
'Immoral and filthy'
Passing sentence, Judge Pawson said Glew "did not solicit" the images and said he would have deleted them if he had known they were illegal.
The judge stressed he did not want to downplay the images, which were "illegal to download, distribute or possess".
But "however immoral and filthy" the material was, he said, it had involved "consenting adults doing things to themselves" and "no-one has been exploited".
"One suspects that images such as these are probably widely available and circulated in WhatsApp groups," he said.
"In light of all the circumstances, one wonders whether or not it was in the public interest to charge you."
Glew, of Hatherley, Yate, admitted six offences which took place between 4 October 2016 and 4 November 2017.
He was given a one-month conditional discharge.