Belfast Telegraph

Child porn ex-churchman avoids jail

A disgraced former Church of Ireland minister who admitted downloading child pornography has walked free from court.

Spencer Gilchrist has agreed to undergo a specialist treatment programme while serving three years probation.

Freeing the 45-year-old former cleric of St Saviour in Connor, Co Antrim, Crown Court Judge Corinne Philpott said the sentence would allow him to “address” his problems, as opposed to jailing him just for a year.

Gilchrist, formerly of Church Road, Kells, who has since resigned as a minister, admitted a total of 22 charges of making indecent photographs, or pseudo photographs, of a child on various dates from 2006 until 2009.

However, the bulk of the 1,185 perverted thumbnail images, which were mainly in the “lower category” showing child abuse, were downloaded during one session by the drunken cleric in October 2008.

As part of his sentence Gilchrist was put on the Sex Offenders' Register for the next five years during which time he was also banned from using a computer without consent of the authorities, or communicating with under 18-year-olds, or undertaking any academic studies away from home.

He was also banned from having or using a mobile phone capable of connecting to the internet.

While the prosecution claimed that Gilchrist had abused his position as a minister, Judge Philpott said that she did not accept this was an aggravating feature in law.

The Antrim judge said it was also accepted that “there is no evidence to suggest that he was more easily able to access this material because he was a minister, or that he had used his position as a religious minister to contaminate other people who might be influenced by his status”.

Defence QC Laurence McCrudden said the computers had no passwords on them and that his offending was not of a serial, pernicious type, but it was his unhealthy interest in adult pornography sites which led to his criminality.

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