Former fireman initially ‘blamed colleagues’ for stash of child abuse images
A former fireman tried to blame colleagues for his stash of child abuse images after a banned Twitter account led police to his door.
Paul Hallett’s perverted activities came to light because of an explicitly titled social media account he ran.
“That account had some 50,000 images,” prosecutor Jenny Haigh told Teesside Crown Court.
She said the account was shut down “because of the nature of those images”, the police were called, and the National Crime Agency became involved.
Hallett, 39, was arrested as his home was searched and devices seized including a laptop containing 277 indecent images of children.
The disturbing pictures and videos showed “a large number of different victims”, the vast majority of children aged 13 to 16, with 43 images in the most serious category.
Some were discovered in a private, encrypted area of the computer which used a “decoy password” and took pictures of those trying to access it, the court heard on Thursday.
Some were backed up from an iPad which was never found.
When he was caught, Hallett denied responsibility for downloading the illegal images, saying he did not know how they had appeared on his computer.
And he appeared to try to blame others, the court was told.
Ms Haigh added: “He did seem to blame the colleagues he worked with. He maintained that to the date of trial. He has now conceded that he was the person responsible.”
On the day of trial Hallett, of no fixed address, finally pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images of children in Middlesbrough between November 2012 and February 2014.
He was not charged with any distribution of indecent images.
He had a previous caution for a sexual offence involving a 15-year-old girl when he was 18.
Robert Mochrie, defending, said that Hallett had lost his job.
He said: “The consequences of this offending have been far-reaching, both in terms of the ability to run his family home financially, as well as emotionally.
“His wife is with him in the public gallery supporting him.”
The judge, Recorder Ben Nolan QC, said the Probation Service did not believe Hallett posed a danger to children and did not put “undue stress” on his earlier caution.
He told Hallett: “You have an unhealthy interest, sexual interest, in children and that needs to be addressed.”
Hallett was given a one-year jail term suspended for two years with rehabilitation activity “which hopefully will address your problem”.
He was given a sexual harm prevention order and will be on the sex offenders’ register, both for 10 years.
Judge calls pervert ‘courageous’ for admitting amassing stash of over 300 child abuse images
A pervert who amassed a stash of almost 300 child abuse images has been described as “courageous” by a judge – for pleading guilty to the sick crimes.
Paul Hallett, 39, was to stand trial at Teesside Crown Court for three charges of making indecent photographs of children.
However, no trial took place as he pleaded guilty to the three counts on Monday.
The judge, Recorder Dafydd Enoch QC, told the defendant: “You’ve done the right and courageous thing pleading guilty if I may say so on the evidence I saw.”
Hallett had 277 of the illegal pictures in Middlesbrough between November 2012 and February 2014, including 43 images in the most serious category in law.
The court heard the defendant, of no fixed address, had a caution when he was 18 in 1997 for having sex with an underage girl.
Robert Mochrie, defending, said: “It will be a stark choice – immediate custody or suspended prison sentence.
“Mr Hallett is fully aware of the two potential outcomes in this case. I would ask for a pre-sentence report.
“He will have to sign the sex offenders’ register as a consequence of the pleas entered.”
He added Hallett had been suspended from his job as a result of the court case.
Hallett could face a sentence between 26 weeks and two years’ imprisonment, with a starting point of one year, for the offences, the court was told.
The judge added: “I make no comment about the type of sentence or likely outcome because I won’t be the tribunal sentencing you.
“But I make it crystal clear that immediate custody is a real option in this case and it’s something that the sentencing judge will no doubt consider.
“I’m going to adjourn the matter so that a pre-sentence report can be compiled about you.
“The report should consider all options but be realistic in its assessment in terms of the likely outcome.
“It does seem to me that on the guidelines a form of custodial sentence, however that manifests itself, is almost inevitable, but that is a matter for the sentencing judge.”
Hallett was bailed until sentencing on March 12.