Suspended jail sentence for man who took photos of girls on Southwold beach

A man who took close-up pictures of young girls on Southwold beach has received a suspended jail sentence.

Matthew Bence, 43, a carpenter, of Wareside, Hertfordshire, had his head in his hands in the dock at St Albans Crown Court as prosecutor Colin Banham outlined a catalogue of offences.

He said Bence came to the attention of the police after they received intelligence about communications on Yahoo messenger. Officers executed a search warrant at his home on April 27 last year and seized a laptop and camera.

Bence was out, but returned later, saying that any chat online was 'fantasy'.

The Toshiba laptop was examined and the police found 203 images at Level 1 (the least serious level), 11 at level three and nine at level four (the second-most serious).

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When his camera was analysed, 125 level one images of girls aged between five and nine in swimming costumes and bikinis were discovered. They had been taken on the beach at Southwold on October 2, 2011.

When questioned, he said he had transferred the images from Southwold beach to his computer but had then deleted them.

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Bence, previously of Kingham Road, Wareside, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to eight counts of making (downloading) indecent images of children, possessing indecent images of children, four of distributing indecent images of children, taking indecent pictures of a child, possessing extreme pornography, three of publishing obscene articles and cultivating two cannabis plants.

Defence barrister David Claydon said he had no relevant previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. 'He expresses his shock and disgust at the way he behaved.'

Mr Claydon said Bence, who has been married for 20 years, has sought help from the Lucy Faithfull foundation – a child abuse charity.

Judge Stephen Gullick passed an eight-week jail sentence suspended for two years. He must abide by a two-year community order and will be supervised on a Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

He told Bence: 'The order is to try to ensure you don't commit offences and to protect children from you.'

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