Accountant, 34, admits to 'biggest' collection of child porn

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The Independent Online

An accountant caught with what is believed to be the largest collection of child pornography in Britain admitted yesterday that he had possessed almost half a million images of children.

Andrew Tatam, 34, of Moulton in Lincolnshire, was ordered to register under the Sex Offenders Act after pleading guilty to making thousands of indecent photographs during a five-year period.

He also admitted possessing 495,524 images of child abuse, - as well as attempting to commit a sex act with a dog.

Tatam appeared before a judge at Lincoln Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to 20 separate offences related to child pornography that took place between December 1997 and September 2002.

Inspector Dick Holmes, a spokesman for Lincolnshire Police, said: "As far as we know, it is the largest seizure of child pornography in the country. We have got lots of people with images of children being abused but, to the best of our knowledge, he is the worst from the point of view of the amount of images he held."

Tatam, wearing a long black coat and a checked shirt, spoke only to enter his pleas of guilty to each of the charges during yesterday's hearing. Alex Milne, for the defence, asked for sentencing to be adjourned for the preparation of reports.

Judge Michael Heath ordered Tatam to register under the Sex Offenders Act and released him on unconditional bail for sentencing next month.

Around the world, police are cracking down on the spread of child porn via the web. In February 2001, after an extensive operation, more than 750,00 images of children suffering sexual abuse were uncovered.

It led to the imprisonment of seven paedophiles, members of the Wonderland Club, a vast international network of men who shared pictures of children being abused - in some cases live via webcam broadcasts over the internet.

Their arrest was the result of the biggest police operation of its kind with the apprehension of more than 100 club members in 12 countries.

As a piece of international police co-operation, Operation Cathedral was hailed as a success, but as a wake-up call to law enforcement agencies and children's charities it has been deafening. At the time, many believed the police had won the latest battle, but the paedophiles were winning the war.

On Wednesday, it was reported that an amnesty could be offered to people who have downloaded child pornography if they hand their computer hard drives over to police.

The aim of the initiative is to encourage those with indecent images of children to give up the material and volunteer for counselling.

Under the plans, anyone participating in the scheme would be assessed by a psychiatrist. If they were judged not to be a threat to children, they would then receive a formal caution.

Their names would still be placed on the sex offenders' register, but they would be spared a court appearance.

A pilot project is under way in the West Midlands - and a nationwide scheme will be considered by the Association of Chief Police Officers in the New Year, it was reported.

The proposal was suggested by the leading child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.