West Yorkshire Police staff member caught with child abuse videos in 'downward spiral' but avoids prison

A West Yorkshire Police staff member was in a "downward spiral" with alcohol and gambling addictions when he downloaded several child abuse videos, a court heard.

A generic picture of a police officer.

Carl Hardcastle, 57, was a member of Protective Services at Yorkshire's largest police force, when he downloaded the seven category A videos between April 1 and October 8, last year.

Leeds Crown Court heard how police searched his home in Otley, Leeds and discovered the material.

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Hardcastle was suspended by the force and later resigned, but still faces a misconduct hearing seeking to prevent him from working for the police again.

Hardcastle, who was supported in court by his wife on Monday, pleaded guilty to one count of making indecent images of children.

In mitigation, Catherine Silverton said: "This is a defendant with no previous convictions with a positive previous very good character, who is deeply ashamed of his offending and who accepts responsibility for his offending - offending which represents the culmination of a downward spiral at what was a particularly difficult stage in his life."

Judge Rodney Jameson QC said rehabilitation in Hardcastle's case is "a realistic prospect" and refrained from sending him to prison.

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"Whoever you were and the fact that you had the profession that you did prior to this offending makes no odds. Having the responsibility that you had means that the offending is to that extent more serious even than it might otherwise have been."

Hardcastle was sentenced to a two year community order which will include undertaking a programme for sexual offenders.

He was also placed on the Sex Offender's Register for five years and made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order.

"Hardcastle was a member of police staff and suspended from duty as a result of this investigation. Being complicit in sexual offences against children goes against everything that we value and work for as a police service.

"He has already resigned from the force but, following the conclusion of this court case, we will progress with misconduct proceedings looking at preventing any future employment within the police."