A MAN who downloaded indecent images of children and engaged in sexual fantasy conversations with an adult who was pretending to be a child was handed a suspended prison sentence.

Leslie Hayward accessed the child sex abuse material from the internet over six years.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that police found fantasy chat conversations on his laptop after it had been seized.

Hayward, was told by a judge that he “lacked insight” and been “in denial” over the reasons he downloaded the still and moving images.

Judge Robert Pawson told the defendant, of Stour Road, Christchurch, he had “run this to the wire” but the 64-year-old avoided immediate custody.

Prosecuting, Paul Fairley, said Hayward was detained after police executed a warrant at his home in August 2017.

Mr Fairley said the computer was logged into a site called Chatstep, which the defendant later accepted he used for sexual fantasy chat.

Police seized the computer and Hayward was interviewed at a police station.

He admitted clicking on various links but told officers he closed the images down and did not think he had seen anything involving children.

The defendant denied having a sexual interest in children, the court heard.

Mr Fairley said 84 category A (the most serious) indecent images were found, with 77 of these inaccessible.

There were also 99 category B, with 96 of these inaccessible, 234 category C, with 220 of these inaccessible, and one prohibited image of a child – a cartoon of a child engaged in sexual activity.

Mr Fairley said the inaccessible images were likely to have been deleted files that digital forensic officers could still trace.

The prosecutor said during a search of Hayward’s computer, sexualised Skype conversations were found which featured fantasy chat involving an adult posing as a child between 10 and 12 years of age.

Mary Aspinall-Miles, mitigating, said the offences were committed almost four years ago and submitted that the defendant needed rehabilitation.

Judge Robert Pawson told the barrister: “I have concerns because your client is still in denial and lacks insight when he suggests the fact he had images of children wasn’t for sexual gratification.”

Ms Aspinall-Miles said the four offences Hayward admitted at an early hearing related to only the possession of images.

In sentencing Hayward to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, Judge Pawson said: “Whilst you have expressed remorse, you have maintained until very recently that those images were not for sexual gratification."

The judge said the sooner the defendant came to terms with the issues he faced “the better for all concerned”.

Judge Pawson said there was a low risk of reconviction and realistic prospect of rehabilitation, adding “it is very much in the public interest that you are rehabilitated".

“You have had a chance, do not abuse it Mr Hayward,” the judge said.

Hayward was also handed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and placed on the sex offender’s register for the same period of time.

  • The Daily Echo requested Hayward’s custody image from police but this was declined by the force.