A MAN who downloaded more than 2,000 child abuse images – including some showing children as young as six — has been spared jail after a judge highlighted how long it had taken his case to come to court.
Liam Sanderson (29), of Shawsfield Road, Rotherham, appeared before Sheffield Crown Court on Monday and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
But Judge David Dixon ordered that the sentence be suspended for two years, saying the police and Crown Prosecution Service should have dealt with it sooner.
“It is two years since these offences came to light,” he said. “I am aware the high tech unit is under pressure but it is simply not good enough that cases like this are taking this long.
“The reality is if I lock you up you will come out in a few months with lower mental health and having learned new things.”
Judge Dixon said the pre-sentence report “just tips things in favour of suspending the sentence”, adding: “If the CPS had got their act together and prosecuted you earlier I may have taken a different view.”
The court heard that between 2014 and 2019, Sanderson had made 34 category A images – the most serious level – 68 category B images and 2,676 category C images.
Judge Dixon said the images and videos showed children aged between six and eight being sexually abused.
The judge said Sanderson had a “massive quantity” of child abuse material.
He added: “For each of these images, a little girl had been abused and she will remember that for the rest of her life.”
The court heard Sanderson, who had sought help for his offending, had suffered mental health issues and lost his job and partner.
The defendant, who admitted three counts of making indecent images of children when his case was before magistrates in December, was also made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order with restrictions on his internet use.
A CPS spokesperson said that, having examined their records, “we can confirm that all our obligations in this case were fulfilled promptly”.
Authority to charge had been given within 12 days of receiving a police file, they said, adding that the case had been delayed by being taken out of the court list in July, without the CPS being consulted, in July.
“The delays in this case were not caused by the CPS but came about largely as an unavoidable result of the effects of court closures earlier in the year,” the spokesperson added.
A police spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police strive to ensure that all investigations are managed in a robust and timely manner.
“Whilst there are many challenges throughout the investigation process, it is acknowledged that increasing reliance of digital media devices by the public has had an impact on the length of time needed to complete investigations.
“As with all areas of policing, South Yorkshire Police are continually striving to improve performance and service to the public, of which demand within the digital examination arena is at the forefront of development.”