A COVENTRY pensioner who exchanged ‘deeply distressing’ images of children, including babies, being sexually abused has narrowly escaped being jailed.
Lawrence Billings had pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent still and moving images of children by downloading them and one charge of distributing some of the images.
But at Warwick Crown Court he was given a three-year community order with conditions of taking part in a sex offender programme for 100 days and a rehabilitation activity.
Billings (75) of Chingford Road, Longford, Coventry, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for five years and to pay £340 costs.
Prosecutor Ben Close said that on July 26 last year the police ‘gained entry’ to Billings’ home, where he lived with his wife, at 6am.
When they told him why they were there, having received information about online activity, he told the officers: “I feel ashamed.”
The police removed a laptop computer, two tablets and a phone which were all subsequently examined.
A few hours after the raid, Billings went missing from home and, amid concerns for his welfare, the following day the police issued an appeal for information about his whereabouts.
Meanwhile officers began to examine the various devices on which they found a total of more than 1,300 indecent images of children, including stills and movies.
They included 250 stills and 46 movies classed as being in category A, showing children, both boys and girls, being subjected to penetrative sex acts.
There were 277 stills and movies in category B of children involved in non-penetrative sexual activity, and 752 in category C, showing children in naked or indecent poses.
Mr Close said the aggravating features of the case were that the abused children were as young as six months old, up to the age of about 15, and that some of them were ‘in obvious pain and distress.
Billings, who had subsequently returned home, had also exchanged images with other people through file-sharing websites, and there were references to ‘seven- and eight-year-old porn’ and ‘seven-year-old girl and her father.’
When he was interviewed, Billings accepted he had a long-standing interest in children, and that for the past couple of years he had been using chat rooms to exchange images.
He said he viewed the images while his wife was in the room watching television, and that he did not mind whether they were images of boys or girls, but that he preferred girls.
Billings had no legal representation in court, and rejected a suggestion by Recorder Nicholas Syfret QC that the case should be adjourned for him to seek representation.
He told the court: “I want to apologise to everyone. If I ever get back into the community I will try to do my best for society. That’s all I want to say.”
Recorder Syfret, after reading a pre-sentence report on him, told Billings: “You pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to offences concerning indecent images of children.
“You are well aware that some of those images are deeply distressing. They represent real children, real human beings, being made to suffer atrociously.
“Not only did you view those images yourself, you actively shared them with other people, some of the images of babies and images of people in pain and distress, and over 500 human beings have been photographed in that way.
“But right from the outset you fully admitted what you had done, and you have apologised for your behaviour in clear terms this morning.
“I have come to the conclusion that, in effect, you had a form of addiction to these images.
“The question, then, is how should I approach sentence, bearing in mind the immediacy of your admissions of guilty, and I am just able to avoid passing an immediate prison sentence.”