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Kent Police: Man discussing child abuse over internet given suspended sentence

September 17, 2012, 3:40 pm

A man has today been sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court to three months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for online chat offences under the Obscene Publications Act. He also received an order to be supervised by the Probation Service for two years.
Kent Police has set a legal precedent in prosecuting a man for making comments graphically describing the abuse of children during a ‘private online conversation.
This is the first case involving online conversations that Kent Police has brought before the courts under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
Gavin Morris Smith, also previously known as Gavin Seagers, a computer engineer, aged 41, from Boleyn Way, Swanscombe, was charged in 2010 with nine offences, committed in November 2008, of publishing an obscene communication under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
A trial commenced at Maidstone Crown Court in November 2011 but the jury was discharged following legal arguments. However, this was subsequently successfully appealed by Kent Police and the Crown Prosecution Service on 9 February 2012. It was agreed from this appeal at the Royal Court of Appeal in London that online chat could be included within the Obscene Publications Act.
Following the appeal, the case was returned to Maidstone Crown Court where, on Monday 9 July 2012, Smith pleaded guilty to nine offences of publishing obscene material.
Detective Inspector David Shipley from the Public Protection Unit at Kent Police said: ‘Kent Police take very seriously the task of managing sex offenders in the community, and where their behaviour causes concern, it is right that we explore all legal avenues to ensure that they are brought before the courts.
‘In appropriate circumstances, Kent Police will investigate those who seek to encourage and support the sexual exploitation of children in the same manner as this case. We will take robust action to both protect children and bring offenders to justice.
‘Smith was engaging in online chat, encouraging and minimising the issue of child abuse.
‘Kent Police’s Public Protection Officers are committed to protect children from any form of abuse including sexual exploitation. This includes identifying those who seek to support and encourage the sexual abuse of children.
‘As a result of this case, the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 can be used for online offences where people engage in fantasy chat about the sexual abuse of children. Such people should not consider themselves beyond the reach of the law. Should we identify similar offences from anyone in the future, we will consider the use of this law, amongst other legislation available to us, to protect vulnerable people from harm.

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