As former police chaplain is jailed on indecency charges, court hears how he tried to destroy computer evidence as police came to arrest him

Disgraced cleric, the Rev Stephen Talbot

Disgraced cleric, the Rev Stephen Talbot - Credit: Archant

A former police chaplain who downloaded indecent images of children smashed his computer’s hard drive and dropped parts in bins in Soham and Ely on the night before police arrived to arrest him.

Stephen Talbot

Stephen Talbot - Credit: Archant

His barrister Mark McDonald told Cambridge Crown Court that Stephen Talbot, 63, destroyed the computer because he didn’t want his wife - at the time a parish priest - and children to see the images. He also wanted to rid himself of what he had done and try to draw a line.

Mr McDonald said that after her husband’s arrest, his wife had been instantly dismissed from her post as vicar of Little Downham.

“The role she fought so hard to get is now closed to her. This has utterly destroyed her life,” said Mr McDonald.

The couple were given 24 hours to leave their home. They moved 50 miles away to stay with friends and were now in rented property and living on their savings.

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Talbot, formerly of Main Street, Little Downham, was sent to prison on Friday after pleading guilty to making and possessing indecent images of children.

He also admitted perverting the course of justice by smashing up the computer which held the bulk of the images, so the full extent of his offences will never be known.

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Judge Mark Lucraft QC told Talbot: “People who commit sexual assault or rape face long sentences. “People like you fuel the demand for such images.”

He sentenced Talbot to 15 months for perverting the course of justice and two sentences of three months each for making and possessing indecent images of children. The terms are to be served concurrently. Talbot was also told to pay £500 in costs.

The court heard that at the time of the offences, Talbot’s wife, Margaret, was the vicar of Little Downham. She was away at a conference in September 2014 when Talbot was looking at porn on the internet.

John Farmer, prosecuting, said that the internet went down in the village but Talbot assumed that the internet provider had become aware of what he was doing and disconnected him.

Mr Farmer said: “He acted pro-actively contacting the Assistant Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, John Hopkins, by e-mail. He offered his resignation as chaplaincy co-ordinator, (a voluntary post which he had held since 2011). He said he had done something foolish in accessing areas of the internet. When he was asked if it involved children, he said “yes.”

The court heard that the night before the police came round to arrest him Talbot tried to destroy one of his computers which would have held five years of “activity”. Police efforts to restore the computer had been unsuccessful.

The remaining computer had only 14 images, including one of the most serious natures, category A, showing a girl aged between 12 and 14 engaged in oral sex with a male adult.

Mr McDonald said Talbot had been born the son of a wing commander in the RAF and gone to boarding school at an early age. He had joined the army and served in Germany and Northern Ireland. In 1977 he had met his wife and become ordained. He became a curate in 1984. He ministered in Hemingford Grey but that was stressful because Mrs Talbot also wanted to be ordained so they moved to a less conservative parish in Sussex. There was a lot of strain on the relationship and Talbot had turned to porn.

“The consequences have been catastrophic,” said Mr McDonald. “They have lost their home, their savings. “Friends have abandoned them. He has lost his dignity and respect and had to move out of the area.”

Mr McDonald added: “He has recognised his problem and has been going to specialist counsellor dealing with his addiction to the internet to address the issues he has.”

The court heard that Talbot’s family was standing by him and both his wife and daughter had written letters to the court saying he had been a kind and compassionate man. Mrs Talbot was in court and whispered: “I love you” to her husband as he was led away to start his prison term.

After the hearing, their barrister, Mr McDonald said there would be an appeal against sentence.

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