A TADLEY man who was part of a global audience who watched a four-year-old girl being sexually abused live on the internet has avoided jail.
Gareth Gascoigne-Leopold – who was living at Rectory Lane – was one of six people from the UK who logged into the online forum while the abuse was streamed live for a global audience in December 2015.
Sentencing him on September 29 at Lewes Crown Court, Judge Recorder Swirsky told Gascoigne-Leopold: “The images you watched were vile and the children involved are likely to be scarred for life.”
Gascoigne-Leopold was sentenced to five years in prison – suspended for two years and made subject to a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.
He was also ordered to attend a rehabilitation course and receive internet sex offender’s treatment.
The 35-year-old was arrested as he landed at Gatwick airport while returning from Spain in December 2016.
He was charged on July 4 with intentionally encouraging and/or assisting the commission of an offence, possessing an extreme pornographic image, possessing an indecent photograph/ pseudo-photograph and possessing a prohibited image of a child.
His arrest forms part of a wider National Crime Agency (NCA)-led investigation into the streaming of child sexual abuse through an online video conferencing platform.
The NCA said that people are utilising the platform to stream the live and pre-recorded sexual abuse of child victims and also to share and view indecent imagery.
Graham Ellis from the NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command said: “The abuse this little girl suffered was unimaginable. That it was also streamed live around the world makes it even more horrific.
“The individuals who were logged into the forum to watch this abuse thought they would remain anonymous. But they thought wrong – there is no hiding place.
“Using all the powers and means available to us, we will identify and locate those who seek to exploit children for their own sexual pleasure and bring them to justice.”
The girl, from Denmark, has since been identified and safeguarded by authorities and the offender arrested.
Five other people from the UK identified at the same time as Gascoigne-Leopold have been arrested, and are now at various stages of the criminal justice system.