June 2003

Ex-vicar jailed for child porn

A former Berkshire vicar who downloaded hundreds of images of child pornography from the internet was jailed for six months on Friday.

John Masters, 40, vicar at St John the Evangelist church in Newbury, Berkshire, for 10 years, admitted four charges of possessing indecent images of children and four of making such images.

Officers found 483 images last October at Masters’ former rectory home in Yattendon, Berkshire – some involving children being seriously sexually abused.

The divorced father-of-two, now living in Southampton, was given a three year sentence, with six months to be served in prison, half suspended and the remainder to be spent on licence.

Reading Crown Court heard how Masters was introduced to child porn by a friend in 1999.

He downloaded images from the internet after paying for them by credit card and then saved them to floppy disk so they could not be accidentally found by other people, including his own children.

Masters had told police he did not know why he had kept the images, but admitted he had enjoyed looking at them.

He admitted all the charges at an earlier hearing at Newbury Magistrates Court.

Letters of support

Nick Syfret, defending, said Masters was “a dedicated, spiritual man” who had been forced to resign from his job, had lost his home, and had seen his reputation shattered.

He had shown genuine remorse, but had now ruined his future in his chosen profession.

Masters’ actions could be the result of events when he was growing up, and low self-esteem, Mr Syfret said.

“He has been assessed as being a low risk but clearly is of some risk,” he said.

Judge Charles Elly said he had taken into account the many letters of support for Masters from former parishioners and colleagues.

He said Masters should be enrolled on a sex offenders’ programme, ordered him to be put on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and ordered the confiscated pornography be destroyed.