Rugby music teacher who printed and passed on indecent images of children is spared jail - despite his repeated offending over 15 years

He also exchanged messages expressing an interest in taking part in sex acts with a young girl

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 10:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 10:10 pm

A Rugby music teacher printed and passed on indecent images of children and exchanged messages expressing an interest in taking part in sex acts with a young girl.

But Walton Cliffe escaped being jailed when he appeared at Warwick Crown Court for his repeated offending over a period of 15 years.

Cliffe (69) of Elsee Road, Rugby, pleaded guilty at the court to three charges of distributing indecent images of children, three of making indecent images of children and three of possessing such images.

Walton Cliffe

He also admitted possessing a prohibited image of a child, two charges of possessing extreme pornography and two of publishing an obscene article.

Those pleas were accepted by prosecutor Andrew Warner who offered no evidence on two further charges of arranging a child sex offence, which Cliffe had denied.

Cliffe, who was formally found not guilty of those two charges, was sentenced to 20 months in prison suspended for two years, with a 7pm-7am curfew for 50 days, and was ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity.

He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order banning him from having unsupervised contact with children without the consent of both the child’s parent and Social Services.

Mr Warner said that in March last year the police had intelligence that Cliffe, a self-employed music teacher, had uploaded an indecent image of a child onto an internet site.

In July officers went to his home where they found 70 indecent pictures of children which Cliffe had printed.

He was arrested and various devices including his phone and a computer were seized, but when he was initially questioned he made no comment apart from denying taking any of the images.

On the devices officers found evidence of Cliffe having distributed two category A images of children.

In addition there were 1,502 images of children, both girls and boys, he had downloaded from the internet, including 83 in the most serious category.

They also found 190 pages of ‘extremely unsavoury’ chat messages Cliffe had been exchanging with two other people in relation to sexual activity with children, said Mr Warner.

Among the exchanges were references to a young girl, in which Cliffe expressed an interest in meeting her and offered money for more pictures of her and a pair of her knickers.

When he was interviewed again after the damning evidence had been uncovered, he said he was ashamed at the content of the chat, but said it was ‘pure fantasy,’ and that he never intended to carry out the acts he had spoken about.

Justin Jarmola, defending, said: “This is a man of senior years who, over a period of time, had collected a large amount of these images.”

He argued that although the offences crossed the ‘custody threshold,’ Cliffe could be given a suspended sentence for the most serious offence of distributing category A images, with concurrent suspended sentences for the other offences.

“We have a man who is essentially of good character, of some age, with a loving and supportive family. Mr Cliffe does not present a risk or a danger to the public.

“The courts know that rehabilitation is key, and he would receive no assistance in custody,” said Mr Jarmola, who pointed out Cliffe had self-referred for counselling from a foundation set up to assist sex offenders.

Sentencing Cliffe, Recorder John Steel QC told him: “You have pleaded guilty to a number of offences concerning the publishing of obscene articles and, the most serious offences, distributing indecent photographs of children.

“This took place on a number of occasions over a long period of time from January 2005 until the date of your arrest.

“But there is mitigation, your clear remorse and shame in this regard, your family situation, and that you have submitted yourself to rehabilitation already.

“It is clear you wish to kick this dreadful habit which you have had in the shadows for many years. It is now in the open.

“The probation service recommend that rehabilitation of you is not available if you were to go to prison. That being the case, it is right that the sentence be suspended.”