On 14th January 2015 the BBC (and other outlets) reported that Michael Pendry received a Community Order for possession of indecent images. Or, as it was actually headlined ‘Abuse images school caretaker Michael Pendry walks free‘. Cue outrage.
So, is this an outrage? Should we be shocked at the sentence?
Well. The facts in the news reports are slim. He “had 658 “filthy images” of children in his cottage in the grounds of Radnor Primary School, Cardiff. He was caught after sharing the images online with other paedophiles for “sexual gratification”. Pendry admitted three counts of possessing indecent photographs of children and one count of possessing extreme pornographic images involving animals.”
The starting point is the Sentencing Guidelines – go to page 76. This is not as helpful as the old ones (isn’t that always the way?) but we can still work out what’s going on.
Although he was charged with possession, lets have a look at the table for distribution and the sentences from that over the page. What the appropriate sentence is depends on the Category. If this were 658 images at Category A, then the starting point (after a trial) is 3 years. In which case a Community Order looks very lenient.
If however there were 658 images at Category C, then the starting point is 13 weeks in prison. Mr Pendry pleaded guilty, so there will be a further reduction from that. In those circumstances, the Community Order seems absolutely spot on.
The reason why a Community Order rather a Suspended Sentence is that a Community Order can last for 3 years (the maximum for a Suspended Sentence is 2) which gives a full opportunity to complete the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme.
This is far, far more likely to stop him re-offending than a 10 week prison sentence where he will be out in 5 with no supervision. For that reason, if those were the facts, the Community Order was absolutely the right sentence.
Was this sentence an outrage? Whilst it’s always nice and simple to see things in black and white, the answer here is ‘it depends on what the images were’. Or, in other words, ‘it depends on the facts of the case and we don’t have enough in the news report to say’.
Mr Pendry was lucky in the sense that after this was reported, the Stuart Kerner story broke, which deflected attention away from this. It is unlikely, therefore, that there will be an AG Ref on this one (unless these really were all Category 1 images).
One last thing – he didn’t ‘walk free’ from Court. He left Court on a 3 year Community Order, to suggest otherwise sounds like he ‘got away with it’. He didn’t. He is on the Sex Offenders Register, he is banned from working with children and he has three years of treatment and punishment in the Community ahead of him. Bad reporting from the BBC.