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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Langham's public fall from grace
Chris Langham in The Thick of It
Chris Langham received awards for his role in The Thick of It
Chris Langham could not have imagined a more public fall from grace.

At the very peak of his career in 2005 police officers arrived at his home in Kent with news that would leave him "hysterical" - they had reason to believe he had been downloading child pornography.

In fact, evidence had been passed to Kent police from officers connected to Operation Ore - the UK's largest police investigation into paedophile activity on the internet.

As had been suspected Langham, 58, had on his computer, alongside scripts for TV programmes, videos of young girls "being degraded and sexually abused".

It was not long before journalists were tipped off and he was issuing a statement to the Daily Mirror asking for privacy.

Then, a 25-year-old woman - who had seen the stories in the press - came forward to say Langham had had sex with her when she was 14.

Juror in tears

Not only was he now facing 15 separate counts of making indecent images of children, but also charges of indecent assault and two counts of a serious sexual offence.

He has now been found guilty of downloading child porn, while being cleared of all the assault charges.

The privacy he had once sought was not afforded him during his three-week trial, as almost every day saw another intimate aspect of his life laid bare.

I thought if I could become angry enough I might be able to break this problem I have in accessing this stuff myself
Chris Langham

The jury heard from a police computer expert who said he had found file names on Langham's laptop referring to children as young as seven, while some had included the words "Lolita", "incest" and "rape".

The trial had to be halted at one point when a female juror was left in tears after seeing some of the images taken from Langham's computer.

It soon became clear the star had knowingly downloaded the images. In one of the trial's most riveting exchanges, he admitted it himself.

When asked why he had pleaded not guilty to the charges, he said he had not wanted to be labelled a paedophile.

Psychological problem

Throughout his time in the witness box, Langham had spoken confidently and looked directly at the jury. But he broke down and wept when denying he was a paedophile.

He insisted he had accessed the videos as part of research for the BBC television comedy series Help. Co-star Paul Whitehouse appeared before the court and said he knew nothing of this.

Langham also said he had a long-standing psychological problem that left him "fascinated by people tying each other up and doing weird sexual things to each other".

He said he had also looked at adult porn on the internet and admitted he had subscribed to an American website that featured depictions of women being raped.

Paul Whitehouse
Paul Whitehouse gave evidence at Langham's trial

When asked why he had saved child porn images on to his computer, he replied: "I thought if I could become angry enough I might be able to break this problem I have in accessing this stuff myself."

On another dramatic day at Maidstone Crown Court, Langham told the court he himself had been abused as an eight-year-old by a man who had taken him sailing.

He said he had seen himself in images of children being abused. The prosecution, however, dismissed much of what Langham said as "pseudo psychobabble".

While Langham has been found guilty of downloading the indecent images, opinion remains divided on what his motivations were.

'Common excuse'

Ray Wyre, an independent consultant who specialises in the prevention of sex crime and abuse who is treating Langham, said he did not think the actor was a paedophile.

He said: "He has an obsession with his own abuse and the whole imagery relating to abuse.

"In a sense, he feels the same way a juror would when viewing these images, including anger. You don't have to have a paedophile motive when viewing abusive images."

He added: "Often offenders see themselves as the child in the pictures, which is what he does."

But Diane Newell, of child protection consultants RWA UK, said looking at child porn for research purposes was a common excuse.

Ray Wyre
Ray Wyre said he believed Langham was not a paedophile

She said: "People who come to me always say they're downloading for research, but why?

"We all know what car crashes look like - we don't need to download pictures of them, so why would you do this with indecent pictures of children?"

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), launched in April 2006 to tackle child sex abuse in the UK, refused to discuss Operation Ore.

So far more than 1,600 people have been arrested in the UK after details from an American child porn website were passed to British police by counterparts in the US.

Another high-profile celebrity to be arrested on child porn charges was guitarist and leading member of rock band The Who, Pete Townshend.

He admitted using his credit card to look at a child porn site for research into child abuse but denied being a paedophile.

After a four-month investigation he was cautioned by police for accessing a paedophile website but was cleared of being in possession of indecent pictures.

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