October 2017

Sex offender jailed after being arrested as he returned to the UK

Sex offender Stephen Hassall has been jailed after he fled abroad and was stopped by police as he flew back to the UK.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard how more than 2,000 indecent images of children were discovered at the 47-year-old’s former home in Goldenhill

Police officers seized a computer tower and laptop from the property, which contained the evidence.

When initially interviewed about it, Hassall stated that pornography was ‘horrible’ towards women and that indecent images of children were ‘disgusting’. But he then failed to attend the following interview and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The court was told he remained at large from July 2015 until August 25 this year. Police were notified that Hassall was boarding a flight from the Indian city of Mumbai back to the UK.

He was arrested upon arrival and went on to plead guilty to making indecent images of children between August 10, 2012 and July 14, 2015.

At his sentencing hearing yesterday, prosecutor Sara Haque said: “In total, there are 2,073 images – 194 of which are still images of category A, with seven moving. There are 54 still images at category B, with one moving image, and there are 1,232 still images at category C, with two moving images.

“There is evidence to show there is children as young as four depicted in some cases in the category A images.

“There was also evidence of deliberate searching and evidence of peer-to-peer sharing of files. The searches were specific for underage and pre-teen.”

Ms Haque described how police had arrived at the Goldenhill Road home in 2015 as part of Operation Safenet.

“There was no answer, but officers saw the defendant looking through an upstairs window,” she added. “They noticed he made his way to the rear of the property and officers then forced entry and arrested the defendant.”

Sentencing him, Recorder Andrew Easteal said: “When the police attended your address, they seized a laptop and a computer tower. What they discovered was over 2,000 images of underage children engaged in various degrees of sexual acts or poses.

“The most serious of these are category A and, among those, there are depictions of children aged four.

“What you need to understand is that the responsibility for what those children have suffered is yours. Every bit as much as the people perpetrating the act. You provide their custom because you were willing to access it for your own sexual gratification without a second thought for the suffering of the children.”

Hassall has also been made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.

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