Stephen Lewis Smith outside the Warwick Courthouse shortly before his jailing yesterday.
Stephen Lewis Smith outside the Warwick Courthouse shortly before his jailing yesterday.

Jail for child abuse images

A FORMER property developer was yesterday jailed for six months for possessing more than 14,000 sickening child abuse images, some of which District Court Judge Richard Jones said were the worst he had seen.

Stephen Lewis Smith was found with the images on his laptop computer during a search of his Clifton home by police in March 2009.

The 56-year-old pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of possessing child exploitation material but was not charged with the federal offence of using a carriage service, namely the internet, to access the material.

Smith, recently of South Australia, previously came to the attention of Daily News readers in 2005 when he blasted the then-Warwick Shire Council for stalling his plans to develop land in the Allora industrial estate.

He later moved to Clifton, where his attempts to get a housing estate off the ground on land behind the local high school were similarly unsuccessful.

The District Court heard 14,797 images and 40 videos were found on Smith’s computer, with some of the material listed in court documents observed by the Daily News simply too horrifying to be detailed.

Child abuse images are classified by police into five categories, with categories four and five being considered the worst.

Crown Prosecutor Sarah Klemm said about 15 per cent of the images downloaded from the internet by Smith were in categories four and five, which include penetrative sexual activity between children and adults, along with sadism and bestiality.

Ms Klemm said 35 per cent of the videos were also in those two categories.

Some of the most harrowing images Smith collected included sexual acts being performed on babies by other children and adults.

Category one images, of which Smith had more than 10,000, typically involve naked children and children in sexualised positions.

Category two and three images, of which Smith downloaded more than 1500, involve non-penetrative sex acts between children and between children and adults.

The court heard Smith declined to be interviewed by police at the time of their search of his home.

Barrister Robbie Davies, for Smith, told the court his client had been suffering from “depression, anxiety and stress” at the time he downloaded the images, due to feeling socially isolated after moving to Queensland with his elderly mother.

He said Smith had since overcome his mental difficulties and had told a psychologist he was a changed man who would not have any future need to view abusive images of children.

Judge Jones said some of the images were “the worst I’ve come across thus far, some of which defy description”.

His Honour accepted Smith’s mental state at the time in part explained his offending, but said his sentence had to “reflect the fact that society denounces and abhors such conduct”.

He sentenced Smith to 18 months’ jail, to be suspended after six months actual time.

The District Court, which has been sitting for the past week in Warwick, visits town several times a year.

The current sitting is expected to conclude today.


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