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Mark Hopcraft, who lived near Newmarket primary school, handed suspended jail sentence after admitting having more than 50,000 indecent images of children



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A man who lived just metres away from a primary school when he was caught with tens of thousands of indecent images of children, some as young as two, has avoided jail.

Mark Hopcraft, 50, lived in Newmarket's Laureate Gardens when his former partner found the photographs on his phone and reported him to the police.

Yesterday, he was handed a 10-month suspended sentence at Ipswich Crown Court, having previously admitted three charges of possessing thousands of child abuse images.

A man who lived just metres away from a primary school when he was caught with tens of thousands of indecent images of children, some as young as two, has avoided jail. Pictured is Ipswich Crown Court
A man who lived just metres away from a primary school when he was caught with tens of thousands of indecent images of children, some as young as two, has avoided jail. Pictured is Ipswich Crown Court

The court heard that Hopcraft's three years of offending came to light in September 2018 when the illegal images were discovered on his phone.

Jeffrey Brown, prosecuting, said: "His partner believed he had been acting differently and any talk about the progression of their relationship had been dismissed by him.

"She was feeling insecure within the relationship and suspected him of infidelity."

The court was told she offered him the opportunity to look through her phone, and asked to look through his to confirm if there was any reason why she should not trust him.

"He showed her some messages on that mobile phone and she asked to see photos," Mr Brown added, but when Hopcraft, a former retail worker, offered to show her the first five photos on his phone, she noticed his breathing was becoming increasingly loud.

Mr Brown said she then locked herself in the bathroom while she scrolled through his phone and saw what she described as thousands of images of young children, after which Hopcraft said his life was over.

"She told him he was sick and he said there's clearly something wrong," Mr Brown added.

Hopcraft's partner subsequently took his phone to Bury St Edmunds police station, and officers searched his property.

The court heard a total of 51,609 photos were found on Hopcraft's devices - 9,602 category A, 9,089 category B and 32,918 category C images - the majority of which were of pre-teen children, between the ages of two and 10.

Mr Brown said analysis of his devices found that 'various search terms indicative of child abuse had been searched for'.

"I'm not sure it matters that much whether the defendant sought it out or whether he clicked on the links," he said, adding that the photographs appeared to have been categorised by him on his devices.

Nicholas Wragg, mitigating, said his client had never been in trouble before.

He told the court Hopcraft had had an 'unhealthy' relationship with pornography which had 'led on to him accessing indecent images of children'.

Mr Wragg said since his offending, his client had contacted a charity that provides one-to-one therapy to address his behaviour.

"In my submission, any prison sentence is unlikely to give him further opportunity to address his risk of harm," he added.

"A rehabilitative sentence may provide an opportunity to continue to protect children from harm by giving the defendant the opportunity to address his behaviour."

Mr Wragg also pointed out the offences had been reported three years ago, which amounted to an 'enormous delay' in it being heard in court.

Judge David Pugh, sentencing, told Hopcraft that 'people like him' caused children to be put in distressing situations.

"You may think that your offending behaviour of what was almost a three-year period, between October 2015 and September 2018, has no victims, but this is not a victimless crime," he said.

"The reason why children are put in distressing situations, which you get pleasure from witnessing, is because of people like you."

Judge Pugh said many of the children in the images were seen to be distressed or in pain, and added: "There were a large number of victims."

He handed Hopcraft 10 months in prison for the images categorised as class A, six months for those categorised as class B and four months for those in class C, to run concurrently, suspended for 18 months.

Hopcraft was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 40 days, in addition to paying £150 in court costs.

Judge Pugh also imposed a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years, and ordered the three devices the images were found on to be forfeited and destroyed.

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