Febuary 2004

‘One of the worst collections of child pornography it has been my misfortune to look at’ – says judge

FORMER Bentham councillor, John Pilkington, has been jailed for 21 months after amassing a huge quantity of sickening child pornography over a seven year period.

Pilkington was told by a judge he had viewed some of his “disturbing and distressing” films, showing youngsters being seriously sexually abused – some of them being raped by adults.

“Yours is one of the worst collections of child pornography it has been my misfortune to have to look at,” said Judge Scott Wolstenholme.

Pilkington, 61, a self-employed computer programmer of Springfield, Bentham, pleaded guilty to ten offences of producing indecent images of children and two counts of possession of indecent photographs of children. His name will also be added to the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.

Mr Jonathan Carroll, prosecuting, said police seized the computer equipment and a pile of discs from the father-of-two, when they searched his home in November, 2002.

“In total, over 32,000 pornographic images of child abuse were discovered in his possession and, of these, a tenth were moving images of children being abused,” he said.

Pilkington was caught during a major police investigation, code named Operation Ore, set up after a USA probe into a company called Landslide, based in Texas, which was distributing graphic pictures and videos of children, aged between four and 12, engaged in sick sexual activities.

When Pilkington’s credit card details were made available to West Yorkshire police, they revealed he had subscribed to the internet site.

After his arrest, Pilkington claimed to police he had accessed the website because he was concerned about the material being freely available and was going to approach the appropriate authorities.

He began monitoring the site but did not report his findings because “he didn’t know how the police would react.”

Pilkington denied distributing the material he downloaded or that he got sexual pleasure looking at the images.

The court heard he had served on Craven District Council for nearly 20 years before he resigned last September while police were investigating his activities.

He had also served on CDC’s standards committee – which scrutinises standards and the conduct of councillors, officers and parishes. He had been a member of Bentham Town Council too.

Mr Richard Clews, mitigating, said Pilkington spent a lot of his time at his computer through his work and found the website by accident, while surfing the net for subject matter.

“He had subscribed to Landslide and became astonished at the ease with which pictures like these could be accessed – and it was that facility rather than the subject matter which concerned him,” he said.

Mr Clews added that Pilkington, who had also been a lay preacher at his local church, had worked hard for the public good during his years as a councillor.