November 2013

Launceston man avoids jail despite indecent images


A FORMER Launceston sweet shop owner has avoided jail after being caught with thousands of indecent images of young boys on his computer – for the second time.

Paul Loft, 49, owner of Gillard’s Sweet Shop, was found to have more than 4,000 photographs and movies of children when police raided the home he shares with his partner on January 23 this year.

Loft, a stalwart of Launceston Chamber of Commerce, appeared at Truro Crown Court yesterday for sentencing, having admitted to 16 counts of making indecent photographs at an earlier hearing.

Edward Bailey, for the prosecution, said police had become aware that Loft was using a website called GigaTribe to download and share the illegal material.

Police seized a laptop, computer tower and hard drive, which were forensically analysed.

During an initial interview with officers Loft, of Church Street, Launceston, said he would look at adult homosexual porn but denied looking at indecent images of children. He later admitted that he had downloaded the files.

Mr Bailey said: “He did accept responsibility for it but went on to say he would not have been aware of the content of some of the files before he downloaded them.”

Mr Bailey added that in 1999 Loft had been convicted of eight charges of possessing indecent images of children and jailed for three months by magistrates at Ipswich in Suffolk.

Chris Spencer, for the defence, said Loft’s confectionery business was crumbling around him. From having three shops in Launceston, he had been reduced to only one, which the banks were in the process of repossessing.

“He did exactly what he did in 1999 when all was falling apart around him; he hit the self-destruct button,” Mr Spencer said.

“Things are as bad as it can get, he can’t sleep, so he seeks some sort of distraction from the reality of his life.”

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said references handed in to the court had described Loft as a trustworthy and conscientious person.

“In addition, you gave outstanding support to the Launceston Chamber of Commerce over the last few years and the town clerk of that ancient borough refers to the support you have given to the town,” he told him.

Judge Clark added that Loft suffered from severe depression and anxiety.

He imposed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered him to carry out an internet sex offenders’ treatment programme and for the computer equipment to be forfeited and destroyed.

Loft was also made the subject of a 10-year sex offence prevention order and will have to sign the sex offenders’ register for the same period.