Judge spared jail sentence over child porn on computer

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The Independent Online

A Crown Court judge caught by an American investigation into child pornography on the internet escaped a prison sentence yesterday after admitting downloading indecent images of young boys.

A Crown Court judge caught by an American investigation into child pornography on the internet escaped a prison sentence yesterday after admitting downloading indecent images of young boys.

David Selwood, who retired from the bench on grounds of ill-health shortly before he was formally charged, was given a 12-month community rehabilitation sentence and will keep his £33,000-a-year pension.

Selwood, 70, a former major- general from Winchester, Hampshire, was arrested after the FBI passed his details to British police. He is one of 7,000 suspects who supplied their credit card details to an internet child pornography site based in the United States. He was charged after police found 75 images of naked and semi-naked boys aged between eight and 14 on his laptop computer.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman sentenced Selwood at Bow Street magistrates' court in London yesterday but said that there was no need to make him attend a sex offenders' programme.

Mr Workman said: "The defendant is a man who until now has had an exemplary record and who has throughout his career in both the Army and in the law provided long and distinguished public service.

"Nevertheless, the courts look gravely on this type of offence because it involves the exploitation and abuse of children, and the court's first concern must be to them."

Selwood, a solicitor, claimed he had been curious to see how difficult it was for someone with few computer skills, like himself, to find such images.

In a statement to police he said that he had never had any sexual interest in young children but admitted it would be difficult to describe his actions as "research".

Since January last year Selwood had presided over eight cases of child pornography at Portsmouth Crown Court. All defendants were convicted and given sentences ranging from a conditional discharge to terms of imprisonment. Among the cases was one in which he accepted a claim by a defendant who was a world authority on child abuse that he had downloaded child pornography for research purposes.

Selwood was put on the sex offenders' register for five years after he admitted the charges last month.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs said that the Lord Chancellor had "no specific powers" to force a judge to forfeit his pension.

Detective Superintendent Jon Hesketh of West Midlands Police, who led the investigation, said: "No one is above the law, regardless of their role or position in life. I hope this case sends a clear message to the general public that the police will pursue and bring before the courts anyone who downloads images of child abuse."