January 2004

Ex-JP spared jail over child porn

A former magistrate who downloaded hundreds of child porn pictures from the internet has been spared a jail sentence.

Neil Morgan, 58, who was also awarded an MBE for his charity work, was given a 75-hour community punishment order at Guildford Crown Court yesterday.

The father-of-three, who served the bench for 13 years, was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for seven years.

At a trial in November last year, Morgan was unanimously found guilty by a jury of three charges of making indecent photographs of children. He was convicted by a majority of 10-1 on four more counts.

The court heard Morgan, who spent much of his career working with children and families, committed all the offences in November 2001. There was no evidence he was planning to distribute any of the images.

Following a police raid on his semi-detached home on the village green in North Road, Ringmer, near Lewes, Morgan’s computer hard drive was found to contain more than 2,000 images, of which 370 were child pornography.

Officers also discovered Morgan, a former director of family support work for the Chichester Diocesan Organisation, had sought out internet sites on the internet by typing words like Young Gay Boys and Dutch Boys in a search engine.

Morgan had denied the allegations, claiming his daughter’s boyfriend had visited child sex sites.

He called an impressive list of character witnesses, including Peter Field, the Vice-Lieutenant of the County of East Sussex, a former police officer, a deputy headteacher and a vicar.

At an earlier hearing, Christine Laing, defending, told Isleworth Crown Court that a jail sentence would be inappropriate because Morgan’s respected position in the community meant he has “further to fall than other people” as a result of his crimes.

She said: “He is a man who has contributed greatly to his community and therefore has much further to fall than other people. Registration as a sex offender and loss of the opportunity to work with children – something he has devoted his life to.”

Morgan began his working life as a carer at a boys’ home in Buckinghamshire. He went on the establish a youth club in his village, volunteered as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool and was also a director at Knowles Tooth Children’s Centre in Hurstpierpoint, which he ran for two years in the Seventies.

Judge John Crocker also ordered Morgan to pay £5,000 costs.