Former Cambs Police chaplain who downloaded indecent images of children has prison term reduced on appeal

Stephen Talbot

Stephen Talbot - Credit: Archant

A former police chaplain, who downloaded child pornography and destroyed a computer hard drive to cover his tracks, will soon be freed after his jail term was reduced.

Stephen Talbot, 63, formerly of Little Downham, was jailed for 15 months at Cambridge Crown Court on February 27.

But last week, judges at London’s Criminal Court of Appeal ruled his sentence was too long and reduced it to nine months.

At the original hearing, Talbot, who was vicar for Cambridgeshire police, admitted making and possessing indecent photographs of a child and perverting the course of justice.

The court heard he had succumbed to temptation when he was chaplaincy co-ordinator for Cambridgeshire police, a post he held for three years.

He was living at The Rectory, in Main Street, Little Downham, at the time and his wife was the rector there but she had to resign from her post and vacate the rectory almost immediately when her husband’s crimes came to light.

He became anxious that his internet provider had become aware of him looking at child pornography after his web connection stopped working on September 30 last year.

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Talbot, now of Fakenham, Norfolk, began drafting an e-mail to the assistant chief constable of Cambridgeshire police, offering his resignation, the court heard.

But he then destroyed the hard drive of a computer before sending the e-mail the following day.

The assistant chief constable called him back and noticed he didn’t sound his usual self, said the appeal judge.

Talbot told him he was “in a very dark place and had done something very foolish and been found out”.

Police seized computer equipment at his home but he then admitted he had destroyed a computer he had been using to download material.

Officers went to the two locations where he had dumped the smashed-up hard drive but the bins had already been emptied.

Of the 18 images police found, one was in the most serious category, one in the second highest category and the rest in the category below and most were of young girls aged between eight to 16.

Talbot was otherwise of impeccable character and had served in the armed forces in Ireland before being ordained as a priest.

He told police the pornography was a “coping strategy” when he was lonely and depressed.

Talbot’s barrister, Mark McDonald, argued the sentence was far too tough and should have been suspended.

He said both Talbot and his wife had lost their jobs and had to move out of the area.

The police wouldn’t have known about his crimes, or the destroyed hard drive, but for Talbot’s own confession.

Refusing to free Talbot, Mr Justice Spencer said a jail term was correct for the serious offence of destroying the hard drive.

But he added: “We are persuaded that the circumstances of this case were so exceptional that a more modest starting point could have been taken by the judge.”

The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Judge Eleri Rees, said that Talbot had already served most of his new, nine-month, sentence and would shortly be freed.