Former swimming instructor had thousands of indecent images of children

Durham Crown Court
Durham Crown Court

A former swimming instructor who had thousands of indecent images of children narrowly avoided going to prison.

Geoffrey Hunter downloaded the images for 10 years before he was caught.

Among his collection was three hours of videos of the most serious category A.

Hunter was said to have "paedophile tendencies" by a judge, but told his jail term would be suspended due to his previous good character.

Prosecutor Ian West told Durham Crown Court police raided Hunter's home after receiving information his internet connection had been used for downloading illegal images.

"Officers found a number of computers, phones, and storage devices," said Mr West.

"Most of the images were on a computer tower.

"In total, there were five thousand of the least serious category C images, and 22 category C videos.

"Four of the images were category B, and there were five category B videos.

"The most serious category A images comprised of five videos lasting three hours."

The court heard Hunter admitted downloading the images to police, but couldn't say why he did it.

"He said, in terms, he had no sexual interest in children," said Mr West.

"It's worth noting some of the images had been opened and deleted, but others had been opened and put in a specific file, indicating the user wanted to keep them.

"Search terms used on the devices show Mr Hunter deliberately sought out this material, he didn't just come across it."

Hunter, 63, of Grant's Crescent, Seaham, admitted three charges of downloading indecent images of children between 2007 and 2017.

Applying for a sexual harm prevention order, Mr West said Hunter has three grandchildren.

"He has also worked as a swimming instructor," said Mr West.

"To be fair to him these offences are non-contact, so the prevention order can be restricted to his internet use.

"Mr Hunter's family know of this conviction, so no doubt they will apply common sense in dealing with his access to his grandchildren."

Kieran O'Neill, defending, cut short his mitigation when Judge Jonathon Carroll indicated he would pass a suspended sentence.

Judge Carroll sentenced Hunter to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, 30 rehabilitation activity days to include sex offender treatment, and the judge passed an order restricting Hunter's internet use for 10 years.

The judge told him: "It is clear you have paedophile tendencies, you didn't come across this material, you went looking for it.

"While I accept there was no direct contact with any child, by providing a market for this material you are directly encouraging the abuse of children.

"This type of offending crosses the custody threshold, but a man of previous good character deserves one chance, which means I can suspend the sentence.

"If you fail to comply with any of its terms, you will come back before me and I promise I will send you to prison."

Hunter must register as a sex offender for 10 years.