AN “UTTERLY disgraceful” man who used indecent images of children online while posing as a teenage girl swerved a jail sentence because of a three-year delay in his case.
Mark Danforth (52), who had thousands of indecent images when he was arrested in May 2017, had tried to downplay his offending because the children ‘had been abused already’, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
Danforth, of Clarkes Croft, Wombwell, told officers that he had been using chat rooms for a number of years and had created a fake profile where he pretended to be a 15-year-old girl, Mr Ian Goldsack, prosecuting, said.
“As that persona, he would engage in fantasy chats with strangers, all of whom, he assumed, were adults, and got them to describe what they wanted to do with him sexually,” he said.
Danforth would use the indecent images of children during his conversations with those strangers.
Officers seized seven devices from Danforth and found 2,611 indecent images of children, including 44 category A images — the most extreme level.
They discovered a prohibited image of a child and 162 extreme pornographic images.
Officers also found file-sharing software which had been run at least 30 times and a program used to erase Internet browsing history which had been run at least 41 times, Mr Goldsack said.
Danforth was quizzed again in October 2018, after a forensic investigation of his devices, and he told officers he was deeply embarrassed by what he had done.
Mr Goldsack said the case had been held up because the officer leading the case had left South Yorkshire Police and the new officer had to review chat room logs containing 5,000,000 words and look at 17,000 files.
Danforth pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children, possession of a prohibited image of a child and possession of extreme pornographic images.
Mitigating, Ms Zaiban Alam said: “He’s embarrassed, he’s ashamed and he’s looking to put his life back together.”
Judge David Dixon gave Danforth a three-year community order which included a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
He was also given an eight-year sexual harm prevention order which banned him from using any device capable of accessing the Internet.
Judge Dixon said: “The reality is if it had been before the court 18 months ago, two years ago, at that stage you would have been locked up.
“You would have gone to custody for two years.”
Judge Dixon said the reality was that if he had been jailed for two years he would have been out of prison by now.
“What you did was utterly disgraceful,” he said.
“You said things in your pre-sentence report like, ‘I took the view that because they had been abused already it wasn’t really that bad’.”
Judge Dixon said he would be referring the case to the Chief Crown Prosecutor because of the three-and-a-half-year delay.
“This is another case that needs referring to try to understand what is going wrong,” he said.