Former Guildford Lib Dem election agent avoids jail after admitting downloading child sexual abuse images
A former Liberal Democrat election agent with a history of child sexual abuse images convictions has been given a chance of rehabilitation, despite pleading guilty to further charges of making indecent images of children.
Police seized computer equipment and memory sticks which were found to contain photographs and a movie of young boys engaged in sexual activities from the home of Robert Somper, Guildford Crown Court was told on Wednesday afternoon (November 16).
Prosecuting counsel Warwick Tatford said the images showed young boys performing indecent acts.
Somper, a Liberal Democrat agent in the Guildford Borough Council elections in 2007, appeared for sentence after previously pleading guilty to three offences of making indecent photographs of children.
The court the Somper, 79, of Park Road, Woking, committed the offences between June 16 2014, and April 3 last year.
He denied a fourth charge of being in breach of a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO) imposed by Snaresbrook Crown Court on May 11 2010.
The prosecution agreed to drop the SOPO breach allegation.
Mr Tatford explained that the 2010 court order had banned Somper from downloading indecent images from the internet.
“It was because police thought he was in breach of the SOPO by accessing material on the internet illegally that they visited his address,” he said.
In the event, he said, it had not been possible to prove whether the defendant had got the image from accessing it online or from a memory stick given to him by someone else.
Judge Peter Moss said: “He has not breached the order but circumnavigated it.”
Mr Tatford said the pornography material consisted only of two images and a short film.
On arrest the defendant said he was interested in adult males, not children.
Somper, who shared the stage with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg at the 2009 party conference, was jailed at Snaresbrook Crown Court for three months in 2010 for possession of child pornography.
Mr Tatford said: “There is the obvious aggravating factor of the previous convictions.”
The court was told that the defendant was a married man whose wife had been recovering from cancer and a stroke.
The court heard that Somper would be celebrating his golden wedding anniversary in August next year.
“His wife is in very poor health,” said Ms Stevenson.
She said her client was engaging with the various court orders and rehabilitation measures.
Judge Moss said he would defer sentence until May 5 next year to see how the defendant progressed.
“If you commit no further offences, I will suspend the sentence. Otherwise, you’re going straight to prison,” he said.
Judge Moss also imposed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order, to replace the current SOPO, restricting the defendant’s contact with anyone under 18.
Lib Dem election agent jailed over child sexual abuse images
A PROMINENT Liberal Democrat election agent caught with child pornography at his Woking home has been jailed for three months.
Robert Somper, 73, of Park Road, shared the stage with Lib Dem leader, and now deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg at last year’s party conference.
But he has been locked up following the discovery of hundreds of depraved photos and films at a London maisonette he rented as well as at his family home in Woking.
Somper was snared after tenants found polaroids of a nude 11-year-old boy that had been posted to the defendant’s London address.
Entry was forced to Somper’s locked bedroom, which was crammed with twisted videos, photographs and scrapbooks filled with articles about child sex abuse.
Police officers also found he had downloaded images of child rape and simulated torture on a shared computer in the living room.
And at his £300,000 family home in Woking, they discovered more obscene images on his PC and gay porn in his briefcase.
When the married father was asked to explain his possession of the images and photographs, he told detectives: “I have kept that aspect of my life separate from my life in Woking.”
Jailing Somper at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Tudor Owen said: “Public revulsion of offences of this nature is in my view entirely understandable.
“Whether it is possession, making it or distributing indecent images, it all contributes to the market in child pornography.
“Every pornographic image involving a child is in fact a picture of a child being abused – it is not a victimless offence.”
Judge Owen ordered Somper to sign the sex offenders’ register for seven years and banned him from surfing the web for porn for the same period, as part of a sexual offences prevention order.
He was also told to pay £580 in prosecution costs and to take care of his own defence fees.
“I see no reason whatsoever why the taxpayer should pay for your legal representation,” said Judge Owen.
The judge also hit out at offensive comments made in mitigation last month by Somper’s barrister Jonathan Mitchell, who appeared to justify his client ogling child porn.
“On April 16, when you were represented by Mr Jonathan Mitchell, he asserted that no harm was done if the youngsters in the images or videos were volunteers, or enjoyed what they were doing, or were being paid,” said Judge Owen.
“I was rather taken aback – it was the first time I have heard [those type of comments] in criminal courts in decades.”
The judge read a series of character references describing Somper as an “active member” of his politcal party who was “involved in running the national Liberal Democrats’ annual draw for many years”.
But Somper, who was an agent for failed Guildford Lib Dem candidate Robert Benson in the May 2007 local elections, claimed he had “withdrawn” from this year’s general election campaign.
Somper admitted six counts of making an indecent photograph of a child and four counts of possession of indecent photographs of children on or before November 29, 2008.