Stroud man who collected tens of thousands of indecent images of children avoids jail

Robert Neal of Frome Park Road, Stroud collected illegal pictures and videos while depressed and drinking too much after a TV project that he was working on fell through, the court heard.

He admitted two offences of making indecent images of children and was sentenced to 9 months jail suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work and to complete a 20 day rehabilitationACTIVITY requirement and a 60 day programme requirement, probably with the Thames Valley Sex Offender programme.

Judge Michael Harington made a five year sexual harm prevention order against Neal and also ordered him to sign the sex offenderREGISTER for the next ten years.

Prosecutor Alistair Haggerty saidPOLICE raided Neal’s home on May 7 after receiving information from the Child ExploitationPROTECTION Centre that he had connected with an online forum on February 24

When police arrived he immediately confirmed he was in possession of indecent images of children. He said he had been accessing them for six months.

“He also disclosed that he’d had a sexual interest in children for as long as he could remember,” said Mr Haggerty.

“He said he had accessed images via the Dark Web and TOR networks. ”

Mr Haggerty said police identified 740 images and 99 videos at the worst level, Category A, which showed children being sexually abused. There were 1,186 images and 80 videos at Category B and 1,744 images nad 28 videos at the least serious category C.

However, there were also 85,500 images and more than 2,500 videos, the vast majority of which were indecent, which police did not categorise because of the sheerNUMBER.

Some of the children shown in the material were aged 5-7 but the majority were in the 10-14 age group.

Tim Burrows, defending, said it had ‘almost come as a relief’ to Neal to be arrested.

“It was the end of a period in which he had spiralled into depression and alcohol abuse,” the solicitor said.

“He is a gentleman who knows his way aroundCOMPUTERS. He has been a graphic designer for some years.

“In 2013-14 he had been working on a TV production. He was paid £5,000 up front and was told further payments would be made when the production was complete and he had reached certain targets. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, no furtherMONEY came and by the end of 2013 he was hugelyIN DEBT having devoted a year of his life to a project for which he had not been paid.

“Consequently the black dog of depression settled on his shoulders. He is socially isolated and has lived on his own for many years. He found himself sitting at home with no money, access to the internet, and access to alcohol. Unfortunately certain things in his past came to his mind.

“When he was a young man he was abused while in care. Memories of that, combined with the alcohol, caused him to undertake searches on the internet via the TOR network. As a result of that he began to download images.

“He has since positively tried to address the issues in his life. He has newACCOMMODATION and a number of new contracts which he hopes will prove fruitful.”