A fantasist who downloaded ‘degrading and repulsive’ computer-generated cartoon images of children to help inspire his own artwork has avoided jail.
Andrew Whitham, of Worston Lane, Great Harwood, downloaded 313 images showing digitally-generated young children modelling in ‘sexual’ poses.
Burnley Crown Court heard how former van driver Whitham used the indecent images ‘as a reference for his own drawings’ and made his own hand-drawn artwork ‘of a similar nature’.
Judge Simon Newell said they are ‘degrading and repulsive and concern small children’.
Whitham, 43, pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing a prohibited image and was given a three-year community order with the sex offender treatment programme and a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
The former Salford University student was also handed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for five years.
Paul Cummings, prosecuting, told the court how Lancashire Police received information on March 6 this year regarding Whitham’s internet usage and the downloading of indecent images.
Officers executed a warrant at his Great Harwood home on March 8 and discovered numerous ‘cartoon-like’ indecent images on his computer.
When interviewed by police, Whitham admitted he had a ‘sexual interest’ in the material including ‘corporal punishment and sadomasochism’ and the material was for ‘his own use and not for anyone else’.
Mark Stuart, defending, said there is a ‘significant difference between cartoons and where there are real life victims’.
He told the court there was no ‘aggravating feature’ about the ‘effect or potential psychological or physiological harm it has on the child involved’.
He said: “They are unpleasant cartoons, of that there is no doubt.
“He stopped looking at them in February 2014, a year before his arrest.
“He pleaded guilty at first opportunity and had been remanded in custody for 59 days.
“He has come to his senses. While he kept the images he did not look at them for around a year and there is no suggestion he passed them to anyone else.”
Judge Simon Newell said that Andrew Whitham’s indecent images were ‘the product of someone’s twisted imagination using a computer’.
Sentencing, he said: “I take on board these are certainly not real photos and don’t have the aggravating feature that a child somewhere at sometime in the world has been abused so the photos can be taken.
“What these offences do show, however, is a very unhealthy and improper interest in sexual imagery concerning children.
“An interest such as that which you have had in the past is sometimes a precursor to direct contact offences. I have concerns here as to the possibility, in light of what I know, of future contact offences.
“It seems to me that is an issue which really ought to be addressed.”
Judge Newell said the length of prison sentence he could impose would not ‘constitute any real deterrent for the long term future’ and would be ‘wholly unconstructive because little or no work could be done by the prison authorities.
He said: “It seems to me in those circumstances and to protect the public as best I can I ought to follow the recommendation of an experienced probation officer.”