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Thursday, 27 May, 1999, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Internet porn lecturer fined
computer
Atkins said he was "disgusted" by some pictures
A university lecturer fined for child pornography computer offences, said more than 900 pictures seized by police were for research.

Dr Anthony Atkins, 36, downloaded the images from the Internet after starting a new job in the English department at Bristol University early in October 1997.

Some images were found by a colleague who alerted the university authorities.

Robert Davies, prosecuting, said Atkins had wiped the computer memory before police became involved and seized a computer he had used.

'Sociological interest'

But investigating officers found 900 pornographic images on a computer "cache" memory, of which he was unaware.

Most were of adults, but 174 concerned children and some were of a child in sexual activity with an adult.

Defence barrister Helen Malcolm said Atkins had a sociological interest in childhood development and sexuality.

He had studied book history and film production and the Internet was an extension of his interests.

Atkins submitted in evidence that he was researching the sociology of special groups.

He could not always be sure of the kind of material being sent to him by the news groups he was investigating.

Exemplary character

He told the court that he was "shocked and disgusted" by some of the images appearing on his screen.

But magistrates fined him 3,000 after he was found guilty of 10 counts of possessing a pornographic image of a child.

Stipendiary magistrate William Kennedy said: "There is no circumstance in which the retention of these images could be either necessary or justified."

Peter Pan

He said Cambridge graduate Atkins - who had won scholarships to America and had also worked at Reading University - was of exemplary character and an academic of "enormous stature".

He told Atkins, who has written noted works on D.H. Lawrence and Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie: "I am sorry for you and your family to see you here today."

Atkins had referred in evidence to a Lawrence quote about a child "awakened too soon", said Mr Kennedy.

Disgrace list

But the magistrate said: "I do not believe parliament intended the slumber of such a child should be sacrificed on the altar of peripheral knowledge."

He ordered that Atkins, of Oxford, should report to police to have his name put on the Sex Offenders Register.

Atkins was dismissed from his post following an internal disciplinary inquiry.

See also:

02 Sep 98 | Science/Nature
18 Jan 99 | Science/Nature
23 Apr 99 | Science/Nature
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