So Chris Langham, the comic actor convicted of downloading child pornography, has been remanded in custody pending the handing down of his sentence on 14 September.
At first, this seemed surprising. Recent remarks by Jim Gamble, head of Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, signalled a willingness to settle for community sentences in pornography cases, which is not surprising given the country's continuing prisons crisis. Even though the defendant had pleaded not guilty, custody looked harsh in this context. Why was Langham not, say, bailed to appear on the 14th when he would receive a suspended sentence in recognition of the very public ruination of his life and career he had already suffered?
The Telegraph's sobering coverage shed some light on this:
Ordering Langham to be remanded in custody until sentencing, the judge told him: "In my judgment - and I have thought long and hard about this - it would be a misplaced kindness to give you bail at this stage."Did this represent a repudiation of the softer, caution-or-community-sentence approach announced by Gamble back in June?
Langham was in posession of some truly disgusting material. We know the trial was halted a few days ago when a juror broke down in tears while watching some of the films he had bought:
Jurors watched in complete silence as they were shown the films. Some flinched at the end of the first film, which was classified by police as “level four”, which depicts sexual intercourse between adults and children. Judge Statman had previously ruled that they should not have to view “level five” films, which involve sadism or bestiality.The "levels" which are referred to were established by the Sentencing Advisory Panel five years ago based on research undertaken by the University of Cork. According to the Panel's original recommendations, in cases where "the offender was in possession of a small number of images
at levels 4 or 5" a 6-12 month custodial sentence should be imposed, rising to 1-3 years where "the offender was in possession of a large quantity of the most pornographic material (levels 4-5)".
According to Jim Gamble, "some sex offenders – especially those found in possession of child pornography – should not be jailed, but cautioned and given treatment."
As I have observed before, it is repugnant in the extreme that child sex offenders should be allowed to escape with a caution or a community sentence. Perhaps the details of this sick and sorry affair will remind us why it is necessary to take these cases as seriously as the Sentencing Advisory Panel recommended - no matter how many more prison spaces it has to take.