Man who downloaded child abuse images claims he distributed sick pictures to ‘shock’ others
A collector of thousands of child abuse images claimed he sent extreme pictures over the internet to “shock” others.
Marc Fletcher, 48, confessed to police he had been downloading and sharing indecent images for years.
He stored thousands of illegal pictures of children on a separate hard drive – and he admitted distributing some.
Yet he still denies having any sexual motivation or sexual interest in children.
He claims he sent images to shock people to whom he had been chatting online.
Officers went to his door after he was detected sending two indecent images of children by email, Teesside Crown Court heard.
They seized a laptop and hard drive when they arrested Fletcher on November 24 last year.
Investigators discovered 3,662 indecent images of children, including hundreds of duplicates.
Some showed children as young as two being abused, said prosecutor David Crook today.
Fletcher said he had been viewing and saving the images for about three years. His search history revealed how he sought them out.
He said he had sexual chats on open public sites and shared images for up to two years, two or three times a week.
Mr Crook added: “He said they would often try and shock each other by posting more extreme images.”
Aside from his admissions, evidence could only prove he sent two indecent images via Skype.
Fletcher, of Sheepdene, Wynyard, admitted two charges of making and one of distributing indecent photographs of children, and possessing 90 images of extreme pornography involving animals.
He had never been in trouble before the offences between 2009 and 2015.
Kate Dodds, defending, said Fletcher candidly directed police to the material before they had evidence, and provided details of websites and correspondents.
She said: “He is quite clear. It was not motivated by sexual interest in children.
“This was material which he bitterly regrets accessing.
“He was looking for material to shock, to exchange with people.”
Fletcher claimed he put pictures on to the hard drive to “remove them from the screen”, and kept his whole life on the computer never deleting anything.
Miss Dodds added Fletcher was unsophisticated and naive in his offending, not thinking through the consequences.
She said the dad was respected in a full-time senior job who wanted to provide for his family. It was unclear how the case would affect his employment.
She questioned what prison would achieve, saying Fletcher recognised authorities’ concerns, worked with professionals to reduce risk and had the support of his ex-partner.
The judge, Recorder Andrew Dallas, told Fletcher: “Your presence here today is no doubt as humiliating for you as I hope you recognise it needs to be.
“This is your only blemish on an otherwise excellent, useful, hard-working life.
“This was serious material.
“This material exists because people like you are prepared to download it. Children are abused in dreadful ways in order for that material to be generated.
“This was systematic behaviour for several years.”
Neither the Probation Service nor the judge believed Fletcher’s explanation, the judge saying it was a “smokescreen”.
They concluded he downloaded the pictures for his own sexual gratification.
The judge said Fletcher’s previous good character, admissions and family meant he avoided prison by “an absolute whisker”.
He added: “Your punishment and consequences of this behaviour will extend far beyond anything that this court does to you.”
Fletcher was given a one-year jail term suspended for two years with 20 days’ rehabilitation activity and £535 costs.
He was given a sexual harm prevention order governing his computer and internet use, and will be on the sex offenders’ register, each for 10 years.