January 2019

Undercover GMP police officer walks free

An undercover GMP officer who helped track down paedophiles walked free from court despite being caught with 1,000 indecent images of children

Lee Kelly, who had been due to receive a commendation to mark his outstanding service, was given a suspended sentence because of his previous ‘good work’ during his 19 years with the police force

Before his address was raided in December 2016, Lee Vincent Kelly, 50, had been due to receive a commendation from Ian Hopkins, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, to mark outstanding service including his ongoing work with undercover officers in a child sex crimes unit and his previous undercover role in successfully targeting drug dealers and gangs.

But the honour was withdrawn when the offending in his spare time came to light and he later admitted his guilt in the first week of a trial at Preston Crown Court last November.

On Friday, Judge Andrew Woolman told Kelly his offences had crossed the custodial threshold but said it would be ‘unjust’ to send him to prison immediately and he suspended the sentence because of his previous ‘good work’ during his 19 years of service with GMP.

Kelly, who previously lived in the Burnley area, admitted making 114 Category A indecent images of children, 127 Category B images and 756 Category C images, along with possessing 55 prohibited images of children and two extreme pornographic images between 2009 and 2016.

The court heard his basis of plea was that he was not seeking sexual gratification and, although the Crown Prosecution Service ‘did not accept that as such’, it did not seek a trial of issue to determine exactly why he downloaded the images.

Richard Haworth, prosecuting, said Kelly had been assigned to GMP’s undercover online team from 2008 and later had responsibility for the welfare of officers using false profiles pretending to be children or paedophiles.

The online team operated from a secure building and work from home was only rarely authorised, the court was told.

Sentencing, Judge Woolman told Kelly: “Your responsibility was to detect people who were potentially damaging children.

“You gained, no doubt, a lot of technical knowledge as to how the dark web worked and how people exchanged images of children and the like.

“Quite wrongly and in a dreadful abuse of trust you used that knowledge for yourself.

“You maintain that you did not do this for sexual purposes.

“It has not been thought appropriate to seek a trial of issue as to exactly why you did it but clearly it was not for a legitimate purpose.

“It was not part of your normal job.

“Some of the children involved were very young, you do not need me to say to you that, somewhere in the world, children are being abused so that paedophiles and others can look at these images.

“You have damaged Greater Manchester Police by your actions.

“You have damaged yourself, you lost your job some months ago.

“You have brought shame and disgrace upon yourself, your have blighted the rest of your life to some extent.

“I have come to the conclusion that I can, just, justify the suspension of a prison sentence and I’m doing that because of course you were of good character and because of all the good work you have done for the police before you brought disgrace upon yourself.

“To destroy your life further, while it may send a message out, would be unjust to you.”

Kelly received a 10-month jail term, suspended for two years.

He was ordered to attend rehabilitation sessions as recommended by the Probation Service and will be on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

The judge prohibited the publication of the defendant’s photograph and full address for the protection of other undercover officers and the integrity of police operations.