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Vicar convicted of down-loading child porn

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: November 10, 2010

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A VICAR who undertook his curacy in Ashbourne has been convicted of 16 counts of downloading indecent images of children.

Rev Dominic Stone, team vicar of Marchington, Marchington Woodlands, Kingstone and Leigh in the Uttoxeter Area Team Ministry was suspended by the Diocese of Lichfield 21 months ago when the charges were brought. He will remain on suspension until he is sentenced next month.

Stone, who pleaded not guilty to all charges at Stafford Crown Court, was found to have downloaded pornographic images of children, some at the most serious levels, in between searching for hymns and other church-related websites.

Prosecutor, Michelle Heeley, told the court that when police seized the vicar’s computer and examined it, they found hundreds of indecent images of children, some at the most serious levels four and five.

She told the jury the 16 charges were specimens, to avoid having around 600 individual counts on the indictment.

Stone did not dispute the images were downloaded on January 7 and 8 last year to the vicar’s computer and that they were indecent.

Stone was the only person using his computer for church work and on January 7, there was a search for the hymn “Be Still”.

Just 16 minutes later the first indecent image was downloaded.

The next day, following searches for “p**** [explicit word for female genitals], tiny and young” were made as were searches for “Star of Bethlehem” and “Church Leigh”, where Stone had a meeting.

Stone maintained he was at a mums’ and toddlers’ meeting when the images were accessed and gave a number of explanations for the images being on his computer — that other people had access to the vicarage, his computer had a virus or had been hacked in to wirelessly.

Stone confessed to having an interest in teen pornography, but denied being the person who downloaded the illegal images.

Following Wednesday’s verdict, Gavin Drake, the director of communications for the Bishop and Diocese of Lichfield who was at the court during the trial, said: “The downloading and viewing of indecent images of children is a very serious offence which not only depicts, but also feeds, the actual physical abuse of innocent children.

“Following the conviction the Bishop of Lichfield will follow the procedures laid down in law and await the sentence before considering the removal of Dominic Stone from his current position and prohibition of serving as a priest.

Dominic Stone’s suspension continues until the conclusion of this process.” Mr Drake added: “During the trial Dominic Stone repeatedly said that somebody else had downloaded the images but that it was not his responsibility to find out who was responsible.

“The Diocese of Lichfield would like to make clear that it expects all clergy to co-operate fully with police investigations into child abuse so that justice can be delivered to the victims of this appalling crime.” Stone, who now faces a possible prison sentence and a lifetime ban from the priesthood, will also have to register with police as a sex offender.

 

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