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Friday 29 August 2014

Irishman and ex-vicar had huge child porn cache, court is told

Grainne Cunningham

Published 16/12/2006 | 00:11

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A FORMER vicar and a paedophile rights campaigner, originally from Carlow, spent years building up a massive "Aladdin's cave" of child porn, a British court heard yesterday.

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The sickening library of magazines, videos, photos and slides was stored in a secret vault hidden behind a bathroom wall in an English country mansion.

Thomas O'Carroll (61), a one-time teacher turned journalist, was a member of International Paedophile Child Emancipation Group and a spin off organisation entitled Gentlemen Without An Interesting Name.

Both groups which aimed to decriminalise sex between adults and children were infiltrated by an undercover officer, known only as Derek Longton. After an undercover investigation spanning years, the enormous collection of child porn was discovered.

Swoops

Mr O'Carroll was arrested during a series of swoops earlier this year, involving 100 police. Millionaire Michael Studdert (67), a former Anglican minister from Surrey, was also detained.

The court heard when police searched Studdert's luxury mansion on 17 acres of Hindhead countryside, they discovered his sophisticated hiding place, accessed by pulling an innocent-looking hook on a wall.

By the time they had finished cataloguing its forbidden contents - "one of the largest" collections ever found - they had nearly 50,000 images, including pictures of children as young as six being raped and tortured.

Studdert admitted 20 sample charges of making indecent images of children between January 2001 and the beginning of this year, one of distributing them and one of possession.

Mr O'Carroll, now of Leam Street, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing child porn images between January 1994 and July 2005. The Irishman, who has a home in Poland, used to be a teacher in Coventry during the 1970s and was a university press officer. He also worked for several years as a journalist in Wakefield.

He also founded the now-defunct Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), another child sex pressure group, and three years ago took part in a BBC4 'After Dark' live debate to talk about his views. Peter Zinner, prosecuting, said he also had a criminal career stretching back 15 years.

In 1981, he was jailed for two years for conspiracy to corrupt public morals by publishing PIE's contact list as part of his campaign to encourage sex with underage youngsters.

Smuggling

Four years ago, he got nine months for smuggling pictures of "scantily clad" and naked youngsters from Qatar, where he had lived for seven years. The sentence was later overturned on appeal.

The court heard how the successful police probe was launched in May 2002, and advanced as Mr Longton befriended various paedophiles, and was eventually introduced to Mr O'Carroll.

Last Spring, Mr O'Carroll offered the officer access to some of the material, proposing he help to digitalise it and store it at his home.

The pair met in a Sussex public house late one evening before the handover of a box of videos and slides, featuring images of young boys aged between five and 12 years, some of which were categorised under the most serious level five. In January this year, members of the Met's Paedophile Unit arrested both Mr Studdert and Mr O'Carroll.

When interviewed the pair initially refused to comment, but eventually Mr O'Carroll said the banned images he had been linked to had been in his possession for a "very long time".

Mr Studdert later accepted he had a "sexual interest" in children and that he was responsible for the material found at his home.

Judge Roger Chapple, who is to be given a 30-minute sample viewing of some of the child porn, is expected to sentence both men next Wednesday.

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