Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 18:30 UK

Gwent Police officer guilty of child abuse images

A serving police officer has been convicted of sharing hundreds child sex abuse images over the internet.

Gwent Police Detective Constable Michael Thomas, 40, of Port Talbot, was found guilty of distributing, making and possessing indecent images.

Cardiff Crown Court heard he was tracked down after an FBI inquiry led to a distributor in the West Midlands.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) praised the investigation by Gwent Police.

It said it demonstrated that "police officers are not above the law".

Thomas, a married man, had denied 11 counts of distributing indecent pictures of children, 10 of making such pictures and one count of possessing indecent pictures of children.

He also denied using the screen name Oscarnovind2 to send and receive the images.

Police officers, like all others, must face the consequences of their actions
Gwent Police statement

No images were found on Thomas's home computer but the court heard computer experts were able to prove the images were being accessed when Thomas was not at work.

The jury was told that between March and November 2007 Thomas sent 253 images and received nearly 2,500.

Of these, 33 of the images sent were indecent and 456 of those he received were indecent, the court was told.

'Rogue officers'

The court heard Thomas was caught when he sent photographs to an undercover police officer who he thought was another paedophile.

He was arrested as police carried out raids on a series of homes to uncover the ring.

The court also heard around 30,000 files had been wiped from Thomas's computer just hours before the raids.

The IPCC said Thomas was one of six men in the UK tracked down following the FBI investigation in America.

Gwent Police referred the case to the IPCC, which managed the force's investigation.

IPCC deputy chairman Len Jackson said: "Police officers are not above the law and the excellent investigation that Gwent Police carried out under IPCC management shows that rogue officers will be brought to account for their actions.

"The investigation was a remarkable piece of detection work that relied on forensic computer experts and painstaking background work.

'Dangerous sexual offender'

"The investigation examined in minute detail Thomas's working patterns over a considerable period of time to find proof that it was him accessing and distributing these vile indecent images of children when he was not at work.

"The forensic computing work was also crucial to proving that it was Thomas who had accessed and traded the indecent images after he had used software to wipe his computer clean."

Thomas was suspended by Gwent Police following his arrest. The force said internal misconduct procedures had begun against Thomas.

It said: "Police officers, like all others, must face the consequences of their actions.

"It is our priority to protect and reassure communities in Gwent and we will take action against anyone involved in criminal activity, regardless of their position or status."

The judge in the case, David Morris, called Thomas a dangerous sexual offender.

Thomas was ordered to sign the sex offenders register and will be sentenced later this month.

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