Man on child pornography charge escapes jail

York Crown Court
York Crown Court

A Scarborough man, deemed to be a “high risk” after admitting child pornography charges, has escaped a jail sentence.

Michael Atherton, 41, of Ingle Close, was caught out after going onto an internet chat-room site and carrying out sexual acts via a webcam, as well as other activity, with a person he believed to be a 12-year-old girl.

However, at the other end of the line on June 12, this year, was a police officer posing as a youngster in order to monitor chat-room sites and catch out people abusing it.

The female officer posed as a 12-year-old called Lilly.

Atherton engaged in a sexual conversation with her on-line, asking her to get friends to also watch him committing a sexual act upon himself and sending her a pornographic photograph involving an eight-year-old girl.

When he was arrested the following day, Atherton’s computer equipment was seized and examined, eight further child pornographic images, along with 200 legal adult pornographic pictures, were ound.

Atherton appeared for sentencing at York Crown Court this afternoon having pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to one charge each of attempting to engage in sexual activity in front of a child, distributing an indecent photograph and possessing indecent photographs

Simon Revell, mitigating, said his client had been taking medication for a depressive condition and it had been this which had had the side effect of heightened his sex drive.

Adding that Atherton was “mortally ashamed” to find himself in court having behaved in this fashion, Mr Revell said that his client had already spent four months on remand - the equivalent of an eight month custodial sentence.

He said that under sentencing guidelines, together with the remand period being taken into consideration, his client would be liable to spend only a few more months in jail.

Mr Revell said that Atherton, and everyone else, would be better served if he was to receive treatment as part of long community penalty.

Describing the offences as “serious” and showing an “unhealthy and dangerous sexual interest in children”, Judge Scott Wolstenholme placed him under a three year community order with supervision.

As part of the sentence Atherton will have to undergo treatment under a sexual offender programme to assist him in controlling his sexual urges involving children.

He was also placed indefinitely under a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, restricting his use of the internet and contact with youngsters under the age of 18, and ordered to be on the Sex Offenders register for five years