March 2019

Paedophile with thousands of indecent images caught in police raid

GIRLS as young as seven featured in some of thousands of indecent images of children downloaded by a paedophile, a court heard.

The New Forest home of Matthew Hirst (32) was raided by police after they received a tip-off that he had shared indecent images on messaging platform Kik, Southampton Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Mary Aspinall-Miles said analysis of the defendant’s laptop, iPhone and iPad found 11 movies and 240 still images at category A, the most serious, five movies and 325 stills at category B and 3,553 images at category C.

Hirst, who was of previous good character, had also distributed dozens of images.

Mrs Aspinall-Miles said most of the images related to girls aged around 10 years old, but some featured were thought to be as young as seven.

The defendant appeared before the court having admitted three counts of distributing indecent images of children, another three of making indecent images of children and a further charge of having prohibited images.

Defence barrister Alejandra Tascon handed character references on the defendant’s behalf to the judge, Peter Henry, and said her client was diagnosed with autism when he was eight.

The judge was also given a pre-sentence report on Hirst by the probation service.

But Judge Henry was critical of both, noting the probation report was handed to him at a relatively late stage and the claims by the defence team were not backed up by evidence.

The dissatisfied judge said they were “serious matters” that needed his full consideration because he was of the opinion the offending “merited a custodial sentence”.

After discussions with Ms Tascon, he granted the defendant unconditional bail to reappear at a later date for sentence, and urged the defence team to be prepared.

“These are very serious offences and on the face of it an immediate custodial sentence is very, very likely,” Judge Henry said.

Noting the defendant’s medical condition, he said he needed to know “way more” about how badly it affected Hirst and his offending, adding: “I will give you the opportunity to produce any relevant report.”

It was revealed that before Hirst came into the courtroom, he had been verbally threatened in the public area outside and security had to step in to protect him.

Because of that Judge Henry decided to impose a court order banning the press from revealing where Hirst lives or the exact date of the sentencing hearing.

Mrs Aspinall-Miles also criticised Kik. “There has been a number of anxieties and concerns within law enforcement about Kik,” she said. “It’s estimated it features in high numbers of indecent messaging cases as a platform.”