September 2018

Convicted paedophile re-offends

A MAN with a previous conviction for downloading indecent images of children was back in court six years later after “lapsing” back to his former ways.

Christopher Smith received a suspended nine-month prison sentence in April 2013 at Durham Crown Court after admitting 17 counts relating to the downloading and storage of such material.

But he returned to the court after a police raid at his home in Chester-le-Street in September last year, when computer equipment was seized.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said, on examination, a computer hard drive was found to contain six offending images, two in the most serious category featuring the sexual abuse of girls aged between six and eight, were recovered.

Although four of the six images had been discarded, two were retained by Smith.

Mr Towers said: “The examiner found evidence that the defendant had been posing as a woman on chat sites, discussing paedophile activities with another user, and a link was found to a website linked with pre-teen models.

“In his interview, he accepted responsibility for all of the images, but he claimed not to be able to recall four of them, and said he had a ‘relapse’ late in 2016 and described himself as, ‘an idiot’.”

Mr Towers said the defendant was not in breach of the 2013 sentence, as it was suspended for two years.

Smith, 48, of Victor Terrace, Chester-le-Street, admitted two counts of making indecent photographs of a child for the latest offending.

Recorder Ian Atherton said despite the aggravating factor of the previous conviction, he accepted it was a brief “lapse” by the defendant, who had tried to overcome his penchant for looking at such material.

Passing a five-month sentence, suspended for two years, with 20 probation-supervised activity days, Recorder Atherton ordered Smith to pay £100 costs and £115 court surcharge.

As he was about to leave the dock, Recorder Atherton told him: “Christopher Smith, this is your last chance. I think you know that.”

April 2013

Spennymoor man posed as young girl on internet chat rooms

AN offshore engineer posed as a young girl in internet chat room conversations with men, a court heard.

Christopher Smith’s alter-ego ‘Lucy Emms’ was revealed after police seized computer equipment from his home in Spennymoor, last October, as part of a wider operation involving Durham and Hampshire forces investigating suspicious chat room activity.

Durham Crown Court was told examination of a hard drive revealed much of its contents had been “cleaned”, but 36 indecent images of children were uncovered.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said they featured girls aged two to 15, and several were considered “particularly graphic”.

Smith was arrested and admitted having gone on internet sites where pornographic images were exchanged.

Mr Abrahams said Smith also told police that he passed himself off as a young girl in chat room conversations with mature men.

“It was put to him that this was a method used by people in ‘grooming’ children.

“Although there was no evidence of that, it was a bizarre explanation.”

Mr Abrahams said Smith claimed he used a ‘cleaner’ for legitimate reasons and not to remove illicit material.

Stuart Graham, mitigating, told the court: “What is unusual here is that he accepts he needed help and sought help before he was even arrested.

“He was working internationally, travelling the world as an instrument commissioning technician, which is why he had so much time to look at pornography.

“He changed jobs and began to work offshore, but matters caught up with him, although he had already decided he needed help as he was sickened by his behaviour.”

Mr Graham said Smith was curious why other people had an interest in child pornography and he was sent images which he viewed once before deleting.

Smith, 43, now of Bessemer Street, Ferryhill, admitted 16 counts of making and one of possessing indecent images of children.

Judge Peter Kelson told Smith: “A disturbing feature of the case was passing yourself off as ‘Lucy Emms’, although there is no evidence you were using it as a means to groom children.”

He imposed a one year prison sentence, suspended for two years, during which Smith will be subject to probation supervision and must complete a sex offender treatment programme.

Restrictions were also placed on Smith’s future use of the internet.

He was also ordered to pay £340 costs and sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years.

March 2013

Ferryhill man pleads guilty to 17 child porn charges

A MAN has admitted committing 17 child pornography offences.

Christopher Smith, 43, of Bessemer Street, Ferryhill, pleaded guilty to 16 charges of making indecent images of children and a further charge of possessing a total of 20 images at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court today (Friday, March 1).

The offences occurred between June 7 2009 and October 13 2012.

The court heard the girls in the photographs were under the age of 13.

Magistrates committed the case to Durham Crown Court on April 5 for sentencing.

Smith was granted unconditional bail.