Page last updated at 05:37 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 06:37 UK

Abuse images warning over vicar

Richard Hart
Hart possessed 44 child abuse images of the most serious type

A charity has warned that child pornography is growing at "a phenomenal rate" because of people like the jailed vicar Richard Hart.

Hart, a priest in Beguildy in south Powys, is starting a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.

Lucy Thorpe, of the NSPCC warned that people viewing images online "should realise more children get abused in the real world as a result".

Cardiff Crown Court found Hart guilty of possessing almost 57,000 images.

The Church in Wales also says it is examining clergy records which pre-date the introduction of its child protection policies.

As well as taking his own pictures, the collection of images came from websites in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK, the US, Denmark, Russia and other eastern European countries.

Ms Thorpe said: "Viewing child abuse images on the internet increases the demand for these indecent pictures and the degradation and suffering of children used to create them.

"It is an awful fact that it's almost impossible to take these images out of circulation.

"Behind most images is an abused child and these children will suffer for many years knowing that other offenders will pore over images of their abuse," she added.

'Position of trust'

Dyfed-Powys Police said they were pleased with Hart's conviction and sentence.

Det Insp Diane Davies said: "The images found on Mr Hart's computer were made when he was a vicar - he had a position of trust within the communities he served.

"We worked closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Team (CEOP) during this investigation as well as the Crown Prosecution Service.

"CEOP provided us with expert assistance that meant together we were able to gather sufficient evidence to secure the conviction of Mr Hart.

We hope this sentence today increases awareness of the seriousness of this crime and recognises it for what it is - child abuse
The Church in Wales

"We have also worked closely with the Church in Wales and the community throughout the investigation and thank them for their cooperation.

"Most of all, I am grateful to those individuals that have been spoken to by the investigation team in the course of our inquiries," she said.

The Church in Wales said it was "deeply saddened and shocked" that one of its clerics had committed such crimes.

"We hope this sentence today increases awareness of the seriousness of this crime and recognises it for what it is - child abuse. It is a crime all the more insidious because it is hidden - committed alone, secretively and in the home.

"There is no place for any form of abuse in the Church in Wales. We give the highest priority to the care and protection of children and vulnerable people in the community," it said in a statement.

The court heard how Hart had 44 images showing child sex abuse in the most serious category five - with 52,240 in the least serious category, 2,419 in category two, a further 684 in category three and 1,445 in category four.

Hart has been suspended from his pastoral duties and now faces a Church in Wales disciplinary panel.

The court also disqualified him from working with children.

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