Greater Manchester, England: Now former Police Constable 39-year-old Lee Ashcroft was sentenced to 10 months, suspended for two years after pleading guilty to making an indecent photograph/ pseudo photograph of a child on Monday, December 19, 2022.
Previously Ashcroft had asserted his innocence, claiming to be the victim of an online fraud campaign.
Due to encryption software that had been installed on his laptop, investigators were not able to immediately search the computer. After the encryption was broken, one file, classified as Class A material meaning that it was considered the most serious forms of abuse, was found to have been downloaded and viewed twice in August 2018. The file was later removed by using a "file shredder."
One other file was located, but had been rendered inaccessible on the computer.
The initial investigation began in October 2020, and it was not until two years later, well after the file had been located on his computer, that he resigned form the police force and changed his plea.
Other than this arrest Ashcroft had no other negative involvement with law enforcement, his defense attorney, Oliver Jarvis, said during sentencing.
"It is one image he is to be sentenced for. There is another side to this defendant," he said during the hearing. "He has, in effect, thrown his life away but is rebuilding it with a very different kind of work."
At one point, Ashcroft admitted that he had accessed the Dark Web due to his interest in coding and could have feasibly downloaded the file "inadvertently."
"The fact that there is no evidence of offending since 2018 is, in my submission, pivotal here," Jarvis said. "The defendant accepts he needs help."
Judge Gary Woodhall addressed Ashcroft saying, "You are someone, even now, who is struggling to fully accept that you knowingly downloaded that image. There are clearly issues that have to be addressed that have caused you to go looking for indecent images of young boys engaged in sexual activities."
Woodhall went on to say, "You are struggling to accept that you have a problem, and you need to address it," but nonetheless, "You have down genuine remorse and shame."
In addition to the 10 month sentence, suspended for two years, Woodhall sentenced Ashcroft to 120 hours of community service, up to 30 days of rehabilitation, and a fine of £1,500 (approximately $1,822).
Ashcroft must additionally register as a sex offender for 10 years.
"Upon further consideration of the evidence in this case, we concluded our legal test was not met and the case was stopped," The Crown Prosecution Service said.