July 24 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, April 3, 2014
A senior figure in Catholic education who was found in possession of more than 5,000 images of child abuse has been spared prison and could even return to working in the church.
The judge described Friar Timothy Gardner’s actions as “depraved” but suspended his eight-month sentence for two years.
Gardner, 42, who was based at St Dominic’s Priory, Southampton Road, Gospel Oak, appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.
The court heard that he taught religious education (RE) at Maria Fidelis Catholic School, Phoenix Road, Somers Town, for six years from 2006 to 2012, and even lobbied the government as adviser to the Catholic Education Service.
But his respect in the community was shattered after an intelligence-led raid at the priory seized his computer equipment and a number of hard drives.
Officers discovered more than 5,000 prohibited images of children, with some graded in the most extreme categories of child abuse.
Members of his congregation, who attended the sentencing to support Gardner, broke down in tears as details of the sickening images were read out in court.
One showed a six-year-old child wearing a cropped top with the words “Paedophiles, can you blame them?” printed on the front, while another showed a nine-year-old engaged in a sex act with a dog.
The prosecution also brought up Gardner’s password to his computer account – described by the judge as “so revolting” that it should not be read out in court.
Apologising for the “shame” he brought to the church, Gardner admitted 10 counts of making indecent images and one count of possession of prohibited images of children.
Defence counsel Louise Sweet said he had shown “nothing but remorse” for his actions and noted his struggles with alcohol and adapting to a more “office-based” role in the church played a part in his actions.
She also said that none of the offences took place while he was in contact with children.
Addressing Gardner, the judge said: “It does not need me to tell you that this is a very serious offence for anybody to have committed, contrary not only to the law but also to any faith.
“This is not a victimless offence whatsoever. Somewhere in the world a child is being abused... to satisfy your own depraved tastes.”
But he noted Gardner was a man of previous good character and praised the work he had done tending to the sick while chaplain at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.
While saying he was not “deserving of any pity” the judge said he had to consider what was in the public interest.
He said the chance of Gardner committing further offences was “very small indeed” and even said that it was “disproportionate to order that you not have contact with people under 16 years”.
The court heard that it was also possible Gardner could return to working in the church, but that it was up to the Vatican.
Det Ch Insp Keith Braithwaite,, of the Met’s Paedophile Command, said: “Every indecent image accessed by Timothy Gardner was a real child, a vulnerable victim of crime.
“His selfish and abhorrent actions have contributed significantly to the destruction of these vulnerable victims’ childhoods.”
Gardner will be subject to a five-year sexual offences prevention order and will be on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
He is also required to take part in an internet sexual offending treatment programme.