HARLOW’S former top police officer, chief inspector Ben Hodder, escaped jail, as he was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court today (Friday April 17th).
The (suspended) chief inspector had already pled guilty last month (March) to making five indecent images of children.
Sentencing, Judge David Radford gave Hodder a six month jail term, suspended for two years.
Hodder, who was police commander of Harlow for two years between 2010 and 2012, was dressed in a grey shirt and black tie, as he sat in the dock, most of the time with his head bowed, as both the prosecution and defence put forward their cases.
The court heard that in April, 2014, the authorities became aware of photographs after a sixteen year old boy (who cannot be named for legal reasons) spoke to his mother about conversations that he was having on internet chat rooms.
After the police analysed the electronic communications, they traced a number of matters to Hodder.
Hodder was arrested at his Chafford Hundred home in April, 2014.
The court heard that one of the images was a Category B image and four were of Category C. All made between November and December, 2013.
Speaking in mitigation of Hodder, barrister, Allan Compton said: “This is a huge fail from grace for my client…a personal tragedy. He is still a serving police officer but his dismissal is simply a matter of time.
He had just broken up with a partner after a long term relationship and went on a reckless, promiscuous binge, as he went onto internet chat sites.
“The site in question has an age verification tab but as we have seen this was over-ridden.
“On searching his premises, the police seized I-Pads, cameras and computers but although the hard drive revealed thousands of filmed images, they were all legal images.
“There is also no evidence that Hodder used his position as a police officer or ever mentioned it, There is no evidence that he attempted to groom anyone.
“He now has a new partner of six months and does not go onto chat rooms after this devastating experience”.
Sentencing Hodder to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, Judge David Radford said: “One cannot underestimate the impact of these proceedings.
“Proceedings that undermine the public confidence in the police force.
You are an experienced police officer yet were reckless enough to believe that the website in question would only have adults on it.
“You have brought shame on your profession”.
Hodder was also required to sign the sex offenders register and will remain on it for seven years. He is also the subject of a curfew between 10pm and 6am. His internet activity will also be monitored.
Last month, Essex Police confirmed that disciplinary proceedings had been instigated against Hodder.
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