A former Greater Manchester Police officer has been sentenced to ten months in prison, suspended for two years, at Liverpool Crown Court today (19th December 2022) after admitting possessing an indecent video of children.
Lee Ashcroft (born 12th June 1983) pleaded guilty to making an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child. He was also handed a 30-day rehabilitation order, a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.
The court also ordered Ashcroft to carry out a 12-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work.
Ashcroft, who was a constable in GMP’s Special Operations, had been due to stand trial but entered a guilty plea at the same court on 24th October 2022, having resigned from the force three days earlier.
He was arrested on 12th October 2020 on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children after officers carried out a warrant search at his home in Hyde. A number of items were seized, including his mobile phone and a laptop computer found under a bed.
Ashcroft, who formerly served in the Territorial Army, admitted accessing the dark web to visit coding forums and transferring money to an unknown person for advice on selling cryptocurrency.
However, when the computer was examined, forensic officers found a video of children aged 10 to 13 years old engaging in sexual activity lasting almost eight minutes. It was further established that Ashcroft owned the computer and that the video had been accessed.
The Dell laptop had been sent off to experts at the Government’s intelligence headquarters (GCHQ), as the ex-cop had refused to hand over the password. He had also installed encryption software to hinder access to its files and applications to wipe the device clean of incriminating evidence.
Even after investigators de-coded the encryption and uncovered the Category A clip, the most serious classification, Ashcroft continued to plead his innocence and claimed that he was a victim of an online fraud campaign.
HHJ Gary Woodall said during sentencing, ‘you have come very close today to going to prison’.
Martha Dowd, senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service North West, said following the sentencing hearing:
“By downloading and viewing the video, Lee Ashcroft – a serving police officer – betrayed his position of trust in the community in the most abhorrent way. His job was to uphold the law and protect the public.
“Today he has been held accountable for actions, which fell far short of upholding those responsibilities. The CPS and the police will continue to work together to robustly prosecute anyone who commits such offences, particularly those in positions of trust in our society.”
Detective Inspector Suzanne Keenaghan, of GMP’s Online Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “We expect our officers and staff to uphold the highest standards and Ashcroft’s behaviour fell well below what is expected.
“We will not stand for this behaviour and we are prepared to take robust action whenever any offending comes to light – whether by proactively identifying it ourselves or responding to reports made to us.
“Ashcroft’s actions were inexcusable and have undermined the very essence of policing’s core value of protecting the public and helping those in need.
“This kind of offending and abuse is depraved and sends a firm warning to those who feel that they can commit these offences from behind a computer screen – we will do all in our power to identify you and bring you to justice.
“I would encourage anyone affected by this case to contact police, or our partners, to report any abuse or exploitation so that the relevant authorities can act on it.
“I would also encourage our officers and staff to report any actions that are illegal or breach our professional standards.”
Page last updated Tuesday 20th December, 2022 at 0800hrs
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