August 2017

‘Parallel universe’ excuse for indecent images

A graphic designer who downloaded and shared indecent images of children as young as five “was living in a bit of an alternate universe”.

Stephen Cowell, of Acaster Lane, York, appeared before York and Selby Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, and admitted two counts of downloading indecent images of children, and three counts of distributing them.

The court heard North Yorkshire Police executed a warrant at Mr Cowell’s home after information was received about indecent images being shared from his IP address.

Cowell, 56, who was a lecturer at York College at the time and now freelances as a graphic designer, was arrested, and computers from his home were seized and investigated by police.

Detectives found explicit emails from Cowell accounts to someone he believed to be under the age of 16, as well as indecent images of animals – which did not lead to a charge from police 

Some of the images were classed in category A, the most serious showing the rape of children

The court heard he had spent 90 minutes with the probation service to prepare a pre-sentence report, and “talked about things he said he’d never talked to anybody about before”

Ms Rudden said he was “not only mortified to be before the court”, but had sought help and “is still on a journey”.

District Judge Adrian Lower told Cowell if it were not for individuals demanding indecent images, they would not be created and children would not be put at risk, but gave him credit for an early guilty plea and acknowledged the low number of images found on his computers and the fact he had sought psychological help following his arrest.

He said: “The fact these images were on the web does not lessen the abuse of the children who were picture.

“I find it difficult to believe you truly thought you were living in some sort of parallel universe where there were no consequences for the awful offending you were conducting.”

Cowell was sentenced to 38 weeks in prison, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to carry out 30 days of community rehabilitation and made subject to notification requirements and a sexual harm prevention order.