Vicar walks free after child porn conviction

A Church of England clergyman who downloaded hundreds of pornographic images of children while working at his vicarage walked free from court today after being ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Dominic Stone, who committed the offences while serving four rural parishes, was given a nine-month suspended jail term by a judge at Stafford Crown Court and was also ordered to complete a sex offender treatment programme.



Stone, then of Moisty Lane, Marchington, Staffordshire, was found guilty of 16 specimen charges of making indecent photographs following a trial in November.



Jurors took around three and a half hours to unanimously convict the 47-year-old father-of-two, who was suspended in January 2009 after his computer was found to contain around 600 illegal pictures of children.



The Diocese of Lichfield confirmed shortly after Stone's conviction that he had resigned from his post as team vicar for the Church of England parishes of Marchington, Marchington Woodlands, Kingstone and Leigh.



In a statement issued after Stone was sentenced, the diocese said his resignation would not remove him from disciplinary action which is expected to result in a life ban from acting as a minister.



Gavin Drake, director of communications for the Bishop and Diocese of Lichfield, said the Church of England had robust procedures in place to protect the children entrusted to its care.



Mr Drake continued: "We would to take this opportunity to thank Staffordshire Police, and the other agencies involved, for keeping the diocese informed during what has been a lengthy process.



"We would like to thank the congregations and ministry team for their patience over these past 23 months.



"Finally we would assure everybody involved, particularly child victims of abuse and sexual assault, of our continuing thoughts, prayers and vigilance."



Stone suggested during police interviews that someone else may have used his computer to access the images on January 7 and 8 2009, while he was not at his vicarage.



But the trial heard that Stone, whose wife was at work, was the only person with access to the computer, and evidence showed he also used it for legitimate purposes at around the time the images of children were downloaded.

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