DEATH threats have been to an agricultural worker who downloaded thousands of indecent images – some of girls as young as five.
Matthew Hirst even shared some of the pictures to a private group of paedophiles on a mobile phone app, however a judge at Southampton Crown Court decided not to send the 32-year-old to prison so he could address his problems.
Judge Nicholas Rowland also continued an order banning the A&T from publishing the defendant’s home address after hearing he and his family had been subjected to death threats.
Prosecutor Nick Tucker told the court police had raided Hirst’s home in November 2017 after getting a tip-off that he had uploaded an indecent picture to the Kik app.
Two devices were seized – an iPad and a laptop – and more than 4,000 still and moving indecent images were discovered on them. Of those, 251 were at the worst level.
Hirst also joined a private group on the Kik app that had an interest in indecent images, the prosecutor said. Hirst shared 65 images in total with the group
Search terms used by Hirst on the devices showed he was intending to look for indecent images of children, Mr Tucker continued.
The images were principally of young girls, and Mr Tucker added. “Most of them were pre-pubescent – one depicted a girl who it is suspected was between the age of three and five years.”
The defendant, who was of previous good character, appeared before the court having pleaded guilty to three counts of distributing indecent images of children, another three of making indecent images of children and a further charge of having prohibited images at an earlier hearing.
Defence barrister Alejandra Tascon said her client was very remorseful: “He regrets ever getting involved in a thing such as this.”
He suffered with autism, ADHD and Tourette’s. He had also been diagnosed with depression at just eight years old and was still on medication, Ms Tascon told the court.
She pointed to pre-sentence and psychiatric reports that described the defendant as someone who was “socially immature” and lacked awareness about acceptable boundaries.
Hirst needed help to tackle his mental health issues which he was unlikely to get behind bars, Ms Tascon claimed.
Michaela Waspe, from the Hampshire Liaison and Diversion Team – a health service that works in partnership with the NHS – also spoke in court. She explained Hirst had self-harmed before, claiming he would pose a greater risk to himself were he to go to prison.
Judge Rowland described the offences as “serious”, adding: “Every time somebody looks at those images it means a child somewhere in the world is being abused in horrific circumstances.”
Noting the various difficulties Hirst suffered, he said that allowed him to take an “alternative” course of action. “It seems to me probation can address those problems you have,” the judge added.
Judge Rowland sentenced the defendant to an 18-month jail term, suspended for two years. He also imposed a 50-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
The ban on Hirst’s address was made at a previous hearing and the A&T requested the court reconsider the order.
But after Ms Tascon said Hirst had been subjected to death threats since the offending was first reported, Judge Rowland ruled the media should publish only that Hirst lives in the New Forest.