AN IT expert was caught with images of children as young as four being raped.
Michael Tatham was arrested after brazenly showing the landlady at The Crown Inn, Theale, a video of young children being abused.
The 39-year-old, of Mulberry Way, Theale, turned up for his sentencing hearing at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday with a bag packed ready for prison.
But he walked free from the dock after Judge Joanna Cutts suspended the sentence.
Tatham admitted possessing 110 indecent images of children of Category A – which depict the most serious abuse – plus one Category A video; possessing 114 indecent images of children, plus one film of Category B and possessing 1,179 indecent images, and one film of children of Category C, on September 7 last year.
Jonathan Sank, prosecuting, said that Tatham was helping out at The Crown Inn after closing time, collecting glasses while using the free wi-fi for his laptop.
Mr Sank added: “He was chatting to the landlady and during the conversation he opened his laptop and started playing a video.
“This took her aback – because it was a video of child abuse.
“It was a pornographic film involving adult males and young children, estimated by the landlady to be between six and eight years old.”
While the woman looked on in horror, the court heard, Tatham pointed to one of the young victims and said: “Isn’t she lovely? Look, they’re enjoying it.”
The landlady called police, who arrested Tatham, an IT expert who repaired computers, at his home.
He later told officers he had downloaded the images from the so-called dark web, which is hidden from view from regular internet users.
Mr Sank told the court some of the images involved children as young as three or four being raped and subjected to other sex acts.
He added: “Your Honour will no doubt take into account the discernable distress [of the children] and the fact there’s a collection been put together.”
Richard Moss, defending, said: “This came to the attention of the authorities in a somewhat bizarre manner.
“Mrs Howard, the landlady, was shown videos. There was nothing in their conversation to suggest she had an interest in, or would be amenable to being shown, such a thing.
“It does appear to be bizarre behaviour, but perhaps alcohol was a disinhibiting factor.”
Mr Sank said his client was a recovering heroin addict with an ongoing drink problem, who claimed to have been abused as a child himself.
The court heard Tatham had no contact with his own children and Mr Sank said: “His father and siblings want nothing to do with him. He only maintains contact with his mother.”
Mr Sank urged Judge Cutts to allow his client, “despite the severity of the images”, to seek treatment in the community.
Judge Cutts told Tatham: “Children as young as four have been seriously sexually abused to gratify your sexual desires... if it wasn’t for people like you, these innocent children wouldn’t have been abused in this way.
“Children aged between four and six years were raped; another girl of a similar age in a Category B image is showing clear distress.
“You opened one of those files in the pub ... and said: ‘Look, they’re enjoying it.’
“No, Mr Tatham – they were not. That comment is of real concern.
“I’m sad to hear you may have been abused yourself in the past, but this is no way to deal with it.”
She added: “When I came to court this morning I fully intended to send you straight to prison and, in many ways, you richly deserve it.”
However, in suspending the sentence, Judge Cutts said she had considered Tatham’s lack of relevant previous convictions, his early guilty pleas and the fact he had started to seek treatment.
Tatham was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid community work with a 50-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
Finally, Tatham was made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years and must sign on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the same period.