Langham given ten-month jail term for child porn offence

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The Independent Online

The actor Chris Langham broke down in tears yesterday as he was sentenced to 10 months in prison for downloading child pornography.

The 58-year-old father of five, found guilty on August 2, had previously been cleared of two counts of serious sexual offences and on eight charges of sexually-assaulting a girl of 14 whom he first befriended in April 1996. He sat for most of the hearing with his head bowed.

Langham was arrested in November 2005 after indecent video files were found on a computer, a laptop, and a separate hard disk from his farmhouse in Golford, Kent. File names included "Lolita", "hussy", "whore", "rape", and "incest", while some titles included "Kiddy 11-year-old", "pre-teen sex education" and "13-year-old pre-teen underage".

He claimed he downloaded the material as part of his research for the BBC drama Help, which he co-wrote with the comedian Paul Whitehouse. In it, Langham appeared as a psychiatrist. A paedophile character called Pedro, described during the trial as a "peeping tom", whose catchphrase was "I'm only a minor offender", also featured.

Langham had said that he created Pedro to explore social attitudes towards sex offenders.

He said he pleaded not guilty to the charges because he did not want to be thought of as a paedophile. In giving evidence, Mr Whitehouse claimed not to know that Langham had downloaded child pornography for "research".

The actor had also been accused by a woman, now 25, of taking her virginity when she was 14. The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has a history of mental illness. She met Langham after seeing him perform in the West End musical Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre in April 1996. She had seen the show as a birthday treat, and Langham had agreed to give her acting lessons. The woman claimed that they had sex in Langham's dressing room and at home, though Langham said their only sexual encounter occurred when the woman was 18, and that they had oral sex. He was acquitted on all charges relating to her accusation.

Revelations emerged during Langham's trial of a personal history of sexual abuse. He admitted that when eight years old he had been the victim of abuse while on holiday in Canada. A man who had taken him sailing abused him, he said.

Langham confessed to feeling a "deep, deep shame" in relation to the event. He also told the jury that he felt victims of sexual abuse were his "brothers and sisters", and that he did not feel ashamed of looking at child pornography. He was convicted on 15 charges. He is expected to serve five months of the sentence.

At the time of his arrest, Langham was at the peak of his career, following several highly acclaimed performances.

His role as the bungling Hugh Abbott MP in Armando Iannucci's The Thick of It earned him a Bafta for best comedy performer last year, while the second series of Help was named as the best comedy programme at the same awards ceremony.

As the judge sentenced him he stood, but did not appear to react. He blew kisses to his family as he was led away.