A North Devon paediatrician has been jailed for the distribution of films and images containing the most severe child sex abuse.
Police raid in 2015
47 year old Dr Jonathon Walsh was arrested in 2015 after police raided his home. Officers from the child exploitation unit seized his computer and a memory stick during the search. No child sex abuse images were found at the time, however there was significant evidence that he had been accessing child sex abuse material, as well using file wiping software.
Child sex abuse images
Walsh, a respected consultant paediatrician in the children’s and adolescent services department of the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, was sacked from his job after admitting 17 charges relating to child sex abuse images. The charges included nine counts of distributing indecent images of children, as well as six counts of making them.
Exeter Crown Court heard how Walsh told his solicitors he downloaded the content because he was ‘bored’ with his job.
The court also heard how none of the material related to patients at the North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple. However, the vast majority of the footage related to ‘Category A’ images – the most serious of its kind – and some videos were several hours long.
Judge Geoffrey Mercer told him:
“Over a period of at least some months, the precise period is unclear, you were involved in downloading and distributing extreme movies and images portraying sexual abuse of children and you went to considerable lengths to try and conceal what it was you were doing. You are 47 years old and a man of good character and I have read a number of references provided by people on your behalf who speak very highly of you.
“You have practised as a paediatrician for a number of years. To state that your sexual interest in children, which outlines these offences, causes real concern in relation to someone in your position is a massive understatement. But it needs to be clearly understood that there was no offending in the context of your work and these offences were non contact offences.
“Your career is now, of course, at an end. To quote from you from one of your letters you have written to me ‘through my actions I have lost my job, my career and my reputation and caused great harm to the ones I love.”
Walsh was sentenced to three years for each of the distributing offences. He was sentenced to a further 12 months for downloading offences. All sentences will run concurrently.
An NSPCC spokesman said:
“Although it has been acknowledged that none of the images related to patients at the hospital, Walsh was working in a position of significant responsibility and trust when he comitted these crimes. Behind every image of online child abuse is a child who has suffered a horrific ordeal in the real world. It’s clear from Walsh’s extensive library that his only care was his own twisted gratification and it is right that he now faces the consequences of his actions.”
Response from Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust
George Thomson, medical director for Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, added:
“This case has deeply shaken everybody at NDHT and we know it has been a shock to the community. We have worked closely with the police throughout this case and we know that none of these crimes relate to contact offences, and none of the images relate to patients at North Devon District Hospital.
“At the launch of the police investigation in September 2015 we took immediate action to exclude Dr Walsh from working at the Trust and informed the General Medical Council. Dr Walsh was dismissed with immediate effect when he was charged in June.”
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