Man who had thousands of indecent images of children escapes jail because of long court delays

A Belfast man whose home was subjected to a bomb attack last week after he admitted having more than 15,000 indecent images of children, has escaped going to prison because of delays in progressing the case.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 6:19 pm
Andrew Patton at Antrim Crown Court on Monday

Antrim Crown Court Judge Richard Greene QC told 55-year-old Andrew Patton that while his offences, including having images and movies of toddlers being raped, “far exceeds the threshold for a custodial sentence,” he had taken steps in the near six years since he was initially arrested to address his offending.

“To some extent, you have benefited from the delay,” the judge told Patton, adding that “the court can intervene to help those who have shown they want to help themselves”.

Ordering Patton to complete a two-year probation order, the judge said that “society has every interest in supporting your rehabilitation, not withstanding the serious nature of your offending”.

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In total Patton, from Orby Drive in the east of the city, entered guilty pleas to 34 counts of possessing indecent images, seven of having prohibited images and three of having extreme pornography, all committed between December 28 2015 and February 18 2016.

The particulars of the offences reveal that Patton had 1,197 images and 44 videos in category A, 1,083 images and 17 videos assessed at category B along with 6,455 category C images and nine videos.

In addition Patton, whose home was the subject of a pipe bomb attack last week, was caught with 7,540 prohibited images of children and three images which amounted to extreme pornography.

Last Wednesday there was a security alert at the property and several homes nearby had to be evacuated after a viable pipe bomb was discovered in his wheelie bin. The device has been sent for forensic testing.

Opening the facts of the case for the first time yesterday, prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer told the court that when officers from the Child Internet Protection Team conducted a search at Patton’s address in February 2016, they seized numerous devices including a laptop and computer tower along with external hard drives and storage devices.

From the very outset, Patton admitted there were indecent images on the devices, that he was “addicted to pornography” and that he had been downloading images of children for the last “10 to 20 years,” using different email address to hide the downloaded files.

While he denied having any sexual interest in children, ex-postman Patton admitted that he “got a buzz” from the images and had masturbated to them.

Mr Steer submitted the “very large number” of images and movie files was an aggravating factor but that in mitigation, there had been “significant delay” by the PPS, Patton had a clear record and had entered guilty pleas as early as he could.

At the start of his plea in mitigation, defence counsel Sean Mullan agreed that “these are deplorable offences and disgusting images” but submitted that the significant delay should be reflected in a reduction of sentence.

“I ask the court to focus on the rehabilitation for this man,” urged the lawyer, who said probation was “not a soft option” but would keep Patton under “close scrutiny” while helping him to address underlying causes for the offending which would in turn, benefit both him and society.

Judge Greene also ordered Patton to sign the police sex offenders register for five years and imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for seven years.