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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-04/darwin-ex-firefighter-walks-free-despite-guilt-over-child-abuse/8497198

Ex-firefighter avoids prison despite having ‘worst child abuse material’ police officer had ever seen

By Georgia Hitch

Updated yesterday at 3:24pm

A former Darwin fire commander has escaped jail time for possessing what police described as some of the worst child abuse videos they had ever seen.

Andrew Stenhouse, 58, also known as Joe, pleaded guilty to possessing eight child abuse videos, with two rated in the worst category of child abuse material and the other six in the second most severe category.

Justice Peter Barr told the court the worst category included depictions of “torture, cruelty or abuse of children” and the second-worst category included “penetrative sexual activity between adults and children”.

He also said one police investigator had described the material as the “worst example of child abuse material” they had seen and found it “difficult and distressing” to view.

But Stenhouse walked free from court after Justice Barr reduced his sentence from 12 months to nine months for cooperating with investigations and pleading guilty at an early stage.

The nine-month sentence was then fully suspended.

Attempt by Stenhouse ‘to seek emotional respite’

The court heard Stenhouse had downloaded other files containing child abuse material that had been deleted from his hard drive and could not be recovered by police.

Justice Barr said in a psychiatric evaluation Stenhouse had said he viewed the child abuse videos and other material – objects being blown up and people being killed – in an attempt to seek “emotional respite”.

The court heard at the time Stenhouse was concerned about health issues after being diagnosed with a high level of PFOS – a controversial chemical previously used in firefighting foam currently being investigated by Australian and international authorities.

Stenhouse was also affected by a fatal accident that occurred between an aviation firetruck and a car which occurred on his watch as commander.

“I fail to understand how the type of material referred to in the facts [or] videos of things being blown up and people being killed could possibly have given you any possible emotional respite,” Justice Barr said.

But he said there was no evidence Stenhouse had a psychosocial disorder or sought sexual gratification by watching the videos.

Shame and embarrassment to act as deterrent

Justice Barr also said he took into account that Stenhouse had not paid for the videos, had a low amount of them, had deleted them after watching them and had stopped accessing them at the time of his arrest.

“You had not accessed child abuse material for some two months prior to the police search last year,” he said.

“You were no longer an active participant in this activity.”

Justice Barr also told the court “the shame and embarrassment [Stenhouse] experienced … and [his] public humiliation subsequently” would also act as deterrents.

Stenhouse will be subject to ongoing reporting and supervision under the Child Protection Act.

 

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