Shannon mother's ex jailed for child porn

The former partner of Shannon Matthews' mother was jailed today for downloading child pornography on to his personal computer.

Craig Meehan, 22, was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison after he was found guilty at Dewsbury Magistrates' Court, in West Yorkshire, of 11 counts of possessing indecent images of children.



The counts detailed 49 different images of child abuse including some featuring children as young as four.



The supermarket fishmonger was cleared on one count of possessing an image on a mobile phone.



Meehan's computer was seized from the home he shared with Karen Matthews, 32, on Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, by police searching for nine-year-old Shannon earlier this year.



Because he has already spent 166 days in prison on remand, he is expected to be released from custody imminently.



Sentencing Meehan, District Judge Jonathan Bennett told him the offences were "serious matters".



He said: "The damage that has been caused to the children in these photographs is unimaginable.



"That is why Parliament regards these matters as so serious and why there is widespread social abhorrence of such offences.



"The most vulnerable in our society have to be protected."



Police categorise child abuse pictures from category one to category five, where five is the most serious.



The court heard Meehan was found guilty of possessing 30 images at level one, 10 images at level two, two images at level three and seven images at level four.



Meehan was made subject to a seven-year sexual offences prevention order which bans him from having photographs of children under 16 unless it is with permission of the child's parents.



He is also prohibited from downloading or viewing any image of children, except for family photos.



Access to websites relating to children was also barred under the order.



Summing up the evidence, Judge Bennett said it was clear Meehan did have an interest in child pornography.



He discounted the defence case that other individuals could have been responsible for downloading the images and said the evidence pointed "overwhelmingly" to the defendant.



He said: "I thus find that the defendant has some attraction to child pornography and was both the owner and principle user of this computer.



"Other occasional users predominantly did so when others were in the living room of this open house and the screen was in full view of anyone present.



"Finally, the defendant was not at work when these images, the subject of the charges, were viewed.



"He had both the motive and opportunity. I am of the view that he has viewed indecent images on the computer."



Meehan was convicted following a five-day trial last week.



Indecent images of children aged between four and 16 were found on one of two computers at the family home where he lived with Matthews, 32, for around five years.



Police experts told the court the computer contained 653 references to "Lolita" - a term commonly used by people interested in searching for child pornography.



But he denied all the charges and told the court he had never searched for, or viewed, child pornography.



The images were found by police who seized Meehan and Matthews's computers the day after Shannon went missing in February.



The schoolgirl, who is now 10, was found 24 days after she vanished following one of the biggest search operations ever seen in the UK.



Matthews and Meehan's uncle Michael Donovan, 40, of Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, are due to go on trial in November accused of various offences related to Shannon's disappearance, including kidnap.