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Monday, July 12, 1999 Published at 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK

Special Report

Paedophile case judge slams Internet

"Disturbing sub-culture"

The lack of censorship on the Internet has been questioned by a Crown Court judge as he jailed a former mayor for child indecency offences.

Michael Powell, Conservative mayor of Bridgend in south Wales from 1984 to 1985 and a Tory candidate in two General Elections, downloaded 16,600 pornographic pictures onto his home computer at his Sarn home near Bridgend.

"Sickening images"

As he sentenced Powell to a three-year prison sentence at Cardiff Crown Court, Recorder David Aubrey QC said: "It is apparent there is an alarming and disturbing sub-culture in our society.

"These people are sitting in front of their computers, exchanging depraved and sickening images with people of like minds all round the world.

"What is also worrying is the degree to which the Internet is not subject to any censorship or control."

Internet opened up the world to paedophiles

Detective Constable Tony Neate, an expert in computer crime, gave evidence to the judge to explain how the Internet opened up the world to paedophiles.

He said: "Over the last three years with the rise of the Internet, the number of cases like Powell have risen rapidly.

"What you once could only buy in specialist bookshops is now freely available on the Internet."

Freely available

Married Powell, 51, was arrested in a police swoop at his south Wales home.

Nicola Harris, defending, said Powell had lost his wife, job and reputation.

[ image: Nicola Harris, defending:
Nicola Harris, defending: "Pictures are freely available"

She said: "The pictures he downloaded are freely available and I think the court should find this alarming itself.

"He never came into direct contact with children and took administration posts in school so he would not be near the pupils."

Powell admitted making indecent pseudo pictures of a child, possessing the images, possession with intent to supply and distributing them. He asked for 50 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

As well as the prison term, Powell was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

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