A paedophile police officer has avoided jail after being caught with vile footage of children. Lee Ashcroft admitted making an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child, two years after a raid on his home in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in October 2020. Ashcroft originally pleaded his innocence claiming he was the victim of an online fraud campaign. Ashcroft’s laptop had to be sent off to the Government’s intelligence headquarters to crack an encryption.
Even after the code was cracked and investigators discovered the video Ashcroft maintained his innocence, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Two years later, he resigned and admitted the charge.
Anlysis of the computer showed a group of children aged between 10 and 13 engaged in sexual activity.
The category A clip, so-called in cases of showing the most serious forms of abuse, had been downloaded and viewed twice.
Minutes lates, it was deleted using ‘file shredding’ software.
Another vile video titled ’12-year-old Swedish friends together’ was found but was inaccessible.
Ashcroft admitted accessing the dark web but said it was down to an interest in coding.
Ashcroft said he “may have inadvertently clicked a link showing indecent images”, but he had never downloaded or viewed them.
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Judge Gary Woodhall, setencing said Ashcroft was “struggling to accept that you have a problem” but has shown “genuine remorse and shame”.
He told the defendant: “You are someone, even now, who is struggling to fully accept that you knowingly downloaded that image.
“There are clearly issues that have to be addressed that have caused you to go looking for indecent images of young boys engaged in sexual activities.
“You continue to deny any sexual interest in children.
“You are struggling to accept that you have a problem, and you need to address it. You have shown genuine remorse and shame.
“You have come very close today to going to prison.”
Ashcroft cried in the dock as he was handed a 10-month sentence of imprisonment suspended for two years.
He was ordered to serve 120 hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 30 days and must pay £1,500 in costs and a victim surcharge.
The Judge also handed him a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and told to sign the sex offenders register for the same period.