A 42-year-old former primary school teacher shared indecent images of children with a Sleaford Town Councillor has been jailed for two years and nine months after being found guilty of making and distributing thousands of indecent images of children (IIOC).
National Crime Agency officers arrested Matthew Sephton, also a former Trafford Councillor representing Altrincham, in December 2016 and seized his phones and computer.
Forensic examination of the devices showed that Sephton had searched for and downloaded thousands of IIOC, some of which were in the worst category possible for sexual abuse.
Minshull Street Crown Court heard on one of his phones was a chat application through which Sephton was a member of various groups dedicated to sharing child abuse images.
Also recovered was a series of messages on What’sApp and Facebook Messenger between Sephton and former Sleaford Town Councillor and RAF Wing Commander Richard Willis, in which the pair exchanged multiple child abuse images and discussed their sexual preferences.
Willis, 51, of Cuthbert Close, Quarrington, admitted three charges of distributing indecent images of children; two charges of making indecent images of children; and a further charge of taking indecent images of children and in June 2017 was jailed for 16 months and placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years. He was also given a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.
Sephton, of Maximus Drive, Altrincham, denied the charges against him and claimed that a man named ‘Tom’ was responsible for downloading the images and sending the messages. Despite extensive enquiries by the NCA investigation team, the existence of ‘Tom’ was never proved.
Today (Friday) at Minshull Street Crown Court, Sephton was found guilty of six counts of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children and was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison. He will also be placed on the sex offenders register for life.
Commenting on the case afterwards, Hazel Stewart, National Crime Agency CEOP Operations Manager, said: “Throughout his offending, Matthew Sephton held positions of trust as both a primary school teacher and a local councillor.
“He was expected to be a role model for children but was actively involved in sharing the most horrendous child abuse images imaginable.
“Every time these images are shared, the child is victimised again and again.
“NCA officers are dedicated to protecting children. We work closely with our law enforcement partners to target and identify those using online tools to perpetuate child abuse and bring them to justice.”
An NSPCC spokesman commented: “Downloading and distributing child abuse images are despicable crimes. Behind every picture or video are real children who have suffered appalling harm.
“Sephton held positions of responsibility in his community but his actions have helped to fuel an industry which feeds off children’s suffering.
“Every time someone like Sephton clicks on this material, the demand for more children to be abused increases.
“The NSPCC is calling on tech companies, government and law enforcement to target this growing problem at source by preventing this content from being published online in the first place.”
If you have concerns about the welfare of a child, call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000. Children in need of support call Childline on 0800 1111.