A pervert who tried to “outbid” other paedophiles in internet chatrooms, even fantasising about killing children, has been jailed for five years for downloading almost 1,000 sickening images of children being abused.
In jailing 36-year-old David John Hughes at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Tom Burgess also ordered that he serve a further five years on licence after his release after determining that he poses a serious risk to children in the future.
The judge had heard that, as well as downloading the photographs and movies of children being sexually abused, Hughes had swapped the perverted images with other sexual deviants online when talking to them in chatrooms.
The content of those chats, said the judge, “are grotesque and disgusting”.
He continued: “They evidence a perversity in relation to the actions that he said he would like to perpetrate on young children, seemingly trading fantasies in what could be seen as an attempt to outbid others in the damage they could cause including, and this beggars belief, the death of such children and how they could be killed.”
Hughes, from Tates Avenue in south Belfast, was arrested last July in a planned operation by police who seized his laptop computer for examination.
That examination uncovered 932 still photographs and 51 movie files which Hughes had downloaded from the web, many of them containing images of children being raped and subjected to sadism.
In total Hughes pleaded guilty to five counts of distributing indecent images, three of attempting to distribute indecent images and 31 of taking indecent images, all on dates between January 1, 2008 and July 24 last year.
Judge Burgess said those images “are vile and degrading assaults on very young children” and would obviously have caused them “both physical and mental damage”.
“The defendant would have been in no doubt whatsoever that the effect of the actions involved in these activities could only have left these children severely traumatised for the rest of their lives,” said the judge, adding that Hughes “all too willingly allowed himself not just to view, but then to swap with others — in doing so he lends himself to this awful trade”.
While Hughes denied involvement during police interviews, Judge Burgess said it was now clear that he gained sexual gratification from looking at the images, telling Hughes his actions had been “truly appalling”.
The judge said a probation officer had assessed Hughes as not posing an “imminent risk” to others, but he countered that by saying that Hughes will inevitably be spending the next few years in custody and so will not be a risk to anyone in the near future.
Judge Burgess added, however, that by his behaviour and evidenced attitude to children, and his fantasies involving them, he could not accept probation's conclusion and decided there was a high risk of reoffending “and since the form of such offending would involve sexual offending towards children, there is a significant risk that such offending could lead to serious harm”.
As well as the jail and licence terms, Judge Burgess ordered Hughes to sign the police sex offenders’ register for the rest of his life.