Febuary 2008

Poolside pervert spared jail

A MAN who secretly filmed boys in a toilet and was caught with a camera at a children’s swimming club has escaped a jail term.

David Ashton was arrested at Parkside Pool in Cambridge after staff were alerted to his suspicious behaviour during a parents-only training session for eight to 16-year-olds.

Police found a video camera in a briefcase he was carrying. When officers searched his home, they discovered covert recordings of men and boys using a toilet cubicle, as well as other indecent images of children.

But Ashton, 42, of Priors Road, Whittlesey, has not been prosecuted for the video-taping. He appeared for sentencing at Cambridge Crown Court on four counts of possessing indecent images, after previously pleading guilty at magistrates’ court.

Judge Jonathan Haworth asked the prosecution why more serious charges of making indecent images, which carry an automatic jail sentence on conviction, were not pursued. He was handed a letter, which was not read to the court, by way of explanation.

The court heard that the images Ashton was charged over included some of naked children aged between two and eight. The images did not involve sexual activity and were judged to be at ‘Level 1’, the least serious category of indecent image.

Judge Haworth said: “There can be no way in which that can justify a prison sentence. Matters might have been very different if I had been dealing with other charges.”

He added: “There were original charges that covered that other activity – they were not proceeded with.”

Of the indecent image charges and pleas, Judge Haworth said: “That happened at magistrates’ court. This court had no control over that process at all.”

Sara Walker, prosecuting, told the court that Ashton had been seen in the spectators’ area at Parkside Pool at around 6.30pm on April 19, 2007.

Ms Walker said: “Witnesses noticed that he had a briefcase, which he kept moving and opening. He kept moving seats, moving closer to where the children were practising diving.”

Ms Walker said that after police arrested Ashton, they searched his house and found covert recordings of men, as well as “young men and boys”, using a toilet cubicle. She added that the footage showed Ashton setting up the video equipment in the toilet.

The location of the toilet is not known, the court heard.

Graham Russell, mitigating, said Ashton has mental health problems and was relieved to be arrested as his offences “had begun to weigh heavy on him”.

Ashton was given a three-year community order, with a requirement for supervision and attendance on the sex offender treatment programme.

He was disqualified from working with children and must sign the sex offenders register.

Judge Haworth also imposed a sexual offences prevention order. It bans Ashton from taking indecent video, photographic or digital images of any person aged under 18, visiting swimming pools or children’s play area, and being in possession of video or photographic equipment at swimming pools, sports arenas or public toilets.

Judge Haworth ordered that the indecent material be destroyed, along with Ashton’s video camera and computer, which he used as an “editing suite”.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Russell said that a “complaint had been made” over the police seizure of adult pornography from Ashton’s home.