Child care officer found with child porn

Liverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

A Wigan residential child care officer was found with thousands of disgusting child porn images, a shocked court heard.

And after police raided Matthew Cunningham’s Highfield home and found the material on his computer equipment he described it as “soft stuff”.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that 122 of the photographs were in the most serious category of such images and a further 241 were in the next level.

A top judge told the 54-year-old: “For an intelligent man holding down a responsible job working with children with difficulties,

trivialising what you had

done, it defies belief.

“Until about three years ago you led a thoroughly honest and blame free life. You have gone very seriously off the rails. I think you probably know that, you’re not an idiot.”

Judge Clement Goldstone QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, added: “What is seriously concerning is how you started engaging in the pursuit of downloading and watching child porn at a time when you were working as a residential child care officer and when caught by police you described it as ‘soft stuff’.

“Well if you think that, coming from the working background that you had, is soft stuff then you have got a lot of problems to address during the currency of the order I am making.

“You appear to totally miss the point about the extent to which people like you render increasingly vulnerable those who are portrayed in those images.

“Not only does it lead to loss of their self-esteem but these young girls and boys feel the need to allow their bodies to be used for that purpose and doing what you did is to feed that industry.

“You should have known better having worked with vulnerable children. Nobody was in a better position to know than you what harm you were creating and causing by what you did.”

Judge Goldstone said that he deserved to go to prison but the sentence would not be long enough to enable him to engage in therapy to address the risk he currently poses.

Instead he imposed a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to attend an internet sex offender group programme and 40 days’ rehabilitation activity.

“Breach these at your peril,” warned the judge, who also ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for seven years and imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for the same period.

Cunningham had admitted three charges of downloading indecent images of children.

He ordered him to pay £500 towards the prosecution costs and to pay his own defence costs.

Steven McNally, prosecuting, had told the court that police raided Cunningham’s home in Culcross Avenue on October 15 last year.

Officers seized various items of computer equipment and when it was forensically analysed by experts a total of 2,918 indecent images of children were found. When questioned Cunningham admitted downloading them and said “it’s soft stuff” but later made no comment when interviewed.

Philip Martin, defending, said that shaven-headed Cunningham, who no longer has the same job, has no previous convictions.

“He is willing to engage and has sought counselling,” he said.