September 2017

Man, 73, caught with 1,500 indecent images of children avoids jail despite failing to appreciate he destroyed lives

A 73-year-old man who was found with more than 1,000 indecent images of children has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

David Dawson pleaded guilty to the charges of possessing indecent images of children, and of possessing extreme pornographic images of a person performing an act of intercourse with a dog.

Dawson, of Moor View, Keyham, appeared at Plymouth Crown Court, where prosecutors revealed he had been downloading indecent images of children for around 10 years, using eMule, a free peer-to-peer file sharing application.

The charges noted how on or before August 2016 Dawson had 1,367 Category A – the most severe and extreme – images of children, made up of 1,219 images and 148 videos. In addition he had 81 Category B and 34 Category C images.

In mitigation, Dawson’s advocate Will Willden said his client’s age and generation had made it difficult for him to speak openly during a probation report.

However, Judge Ian Lawrie QC argued that what Dawson was viewing was “appalling and he needs to confront it”.

He said he recognised that the matter was “grossly humiliating” for Dawson, but the man had not shown “much empathy for the children” forced to take part.

He asked how could Dawson “not have recognised” that those children had been harmed by the process.

Judge Lawrie told Mr Willden that Dawson “needs to address why he is looking at those images”.

He also rounded on Dawson’s claim that he had not gone searching for the images, noting that he had gained them via email and had transferred them to a memory stick.

He accepted Dawson had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty at the first offence, and recognised how sending a 73-year-old to prison was a decision “not to be taken lightly”.

He said Dawson had “not helped himself today by explaining to you [Mr Willden] or the court what it is that drives himself to commit these offences”.

Addressing Dawson directly, Judge Lawrie told him that by viewing these images, Dawson directly contributed to the “long term suffering of those children”.

He said: “You don’t appear to appreciate just how appalling this material is” saying he helps destroy young lives by viewing it.

He said Dawson had failed to “confront the enormity” of his actions.

Judge Lawrie said a 30-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) would see Dawson regularly meet with someone to address and discuss his offences, adding that to successfully complete the community requirement he would have to be “very, very honest”.

Judge Lawrie noted that while Dawson’s wife – who sat in the public gallery – was standing by him, and that he had “led a blameless life” he would have to recognise during the meetings that “there is something which lurks within you, something deeply uncomfortable”.

He sentenced Dawson to 20 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered him to pay £340 costs, £140 victim surcharge and be places on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and be subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.

After warning the 73-year-old that any breaches of the sentence or the RAR would see him return to court and undoubtedly jailed – regardless of his age – Judge Lawrie told Dawson “until you address your problems I think you pose a risk”.

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