September 2016

Nursery manager who worked across Hampshire downloaded child abuse images


A nursery manager was caught with indecent images of children including a video showing a baby being sexually abused

Clark Merchant had installed sophisticated software used to wipe and also recover deleted images normally used by police.

Officers arrested him after his IP address was linked to file-sharing of pictures with sickening titles.

The 33-year-old, of Burnhams Walk, Gosport, had searched for pre-teenage children and used the term ‘daddy and daughter’ when looking for images.

In all, police found 31 images, including a movie, on his Asus laptop and tower computer.

Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said: ‘At the time of his arrest he was working as a nursery manager for a children’s nursery based in Southampton, and that cares for children aged from six weeks to pre-school age.

‘The police conducted a meeting with the owners and operators of that nursery. ‘A decision was made in view of what they had said to terminate his employment forthwith.

‘He does have a long history of working with young and vulnerable people, children in particular, aged from two years up until 18 up and down Hampshire.

‘Many of the young people looked after by him have various problems, and difficulties of a mental nature as well.’

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Merchant is now on benefits. Mr Booth told the court Merchant, who has no previous convictions, had nine category A images – the worst grade – seven at category B and 14 at C.

The film was category A. One of the terms he was searching for was PTHC – said in court to stand for pre-teen hardcore – but Merchant claimed to police he thought it meant ‘police tested, hereby certified’.

Mr Booth added: ‘The crown raises an eyebrow to the legitimacy or veracity of what he says.’ The images were all located in the cache of the computers. Merchant admitted six counts of making indecent photographs.

Recorder Nicholas Atkinson QC imposed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years on three counts, and a three-year community order on the other three counts.

Merchant must complete a sex offenders’ treatment programme and sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

A sexual harm prevention order imposed for 10 years bans him from contact with children. He must pay £50 costs for the offences committed last year.