Malton police officer escapes prison after downloading more than 8,000 indecent images of children

A Malton police officer who downloaded more than 8,000 indecent images of children has avoided jail.

By Court Reporter
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 8:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 8:49 am

Christopher Groom, 41, trawled the internet for depraved images of youngsters using search terms such as ‘Naked young teens’ and ‘Youngest naked models’, Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard.

Among the vile photos downloaded by Groom were sexual images of youngsters between eight and 14, said prosecutor Charles Macrae.

Groom, who has since resigned from the force, was arrested after police from North Yorkshire’s Online Abuse Team searched his home in Malton on December 16 last year.

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Leeds Magistrates' Court.

They seized a computer tower and a mobile phone and took the devices away for analysis.

Groom was brought in for questioning and gave a prepared statement but denied he had been searching for indecent images of children.

“He said he was shocked that any such images had been found on his devices,” added Mr Macrae.

Forensic analysis of Groom’s computer tower revealed that he had downloaded 8,707 Category C images of children over what is thought to be a seven-year period.

Mr Macrae said that “file names and internet searches associated with child sexual abuse” were found on the tower.

He was interviewed again in January after the forensic report and provided a further prepared statement in which he claimed he had “not deliberately sought out” indecent images.

Groom was charged with one count of making indecent images of minors.

The offences are said to have occurred between December 2014 and November 2021.

Groom, of Main Street, Claxton, admitted the offence and appeared for sentence on Tuesday June 14.

Mr Macrae said the images found on the computer tower were of young girls between eight and 14 years of age in “various stages of undress”.

He said that forensic officers had found evidence which showed that Groom had made internet searches for indecent imagery and visited websites of that nature which suggested he had an unhealthy interest in such material.

Groom - who once received a commendation from a senior officer for his bravery on duty and an award from the Royal Humane Society - later deleted his search history and the images, which featured “naked images of children as young as eight”.

Following his arrest, Groom claimed he had initially downloaded what he thought was legal pornography only to find it contained indecent images.

However, the forensic report debunked his claims that the downloads were accidental because “the searches had been made where such (indecent) images were likely to be”.

Groom was a serving police officer in the Malton area at the time but was not on duty during the illicit downloads.

Matthew Savage, mitigating, said Groom was now a changed man having voluntarily enrolled on an offenders’ prevention course.

“He knows that he has now lost his good character,” added Mr Savage.

He said Groom had resigned from the force because he “felt that his position was untenable and didn’t want to cause any issues for his employers”.

“He remains deeply embarrassed and ashamed about his behaviour,” added Mr Savage.

He said Groom “understands fully the impact that this type of offending has” and that his arrest and subsequent conviction had been a “very salutary lesson”.

District judge Richard Kitson said the huge number of images was an “aggravating factor” in Groom’s despicable offences.

He told Groom: “You understand that this is not a victimless crime.

"At some point, these photographs had been taken of very real children who have suffered that abuse.”

He said Groom had ruined what was a “very promising” career.

“You were a police officer for a number of years and you have now lost that,” added Mr Kitson.

“Not only have you lost that employment, the public have lost what under other circumstances was a very good and brave police officer.

"You were a man not only of good character, but positive character.”

Mr Kitson told Groom he would not be sending him to jail because the Probation Service said he was at low risk of reoffending and could be rehabilitated in the community.

He said he had also taken account of the steps that Groom had taken to address his offending and his early guilty plea.

Instead, Groom was given an 18-month community order which includes 30 rehabilitation-activity days and 150 hours’ unpaid work.

He was also ordered to sign on the sex-offenders’ register for five years and made subject to a five-year sexual-harm prevention order to curb his online activities and allow police to monitor his internet activities.

As part of his notification requirements, Groom will have to periodically report to Scarborough Police Station.