Berkhamsted church volunteer had child porn on his computer

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Church-going Michael Eller called the police himself after a message on his computer told him he would be reported to the authorities for sexual chat with a 14-year-old girl.

The retired financial director was communicating with an underage girl called Claire on a site called ‘Chat Roulette’ when a banner appeared saying his computer address was being noted.

After confessing to his wife, Eller called the police and his computer was seized. When it was examined child sex abuse images were found, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Eller, 66, from Berkhamsted, pleaded guilty to five counts of making indecent images of children and one of possessing indecent images at the magistrates’ court. No charge was brought in connection with the contact he had with the girl called Claire.

Prosecutor Rebbeca Smith said that on October 6 last year Eller telephoned the police out of concern over the message that appeared on his computer.

Eller admitted when questioned that the conversation became sexual and that he sent her an image of a penis.

He denied he had any indecent images of children on his computer and was bailed by the police. But when the Dell computer was examined officers found 148 images. 90 were at Level 1, the least serious level, 6 were at Level 2, 22 at Level 3, 23 at Level 4 and 7 at Level 5, the most serious level.

Defence barrister Gary Adel said: “Mr Eller is a retired financial director, who has been married for 37 years and is a grandfather. His wife is deeply upset as is his family.

“He does voluntary work for his church and is a regularly attends St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted.”

Mr Adel said Eller has been diagnosed as being bi-polar. He said: “He expresses full remorse and accepts responsibility. He is totally ashamed and embarrassed.

“He was on the Chat Roulette site and saw the banner saying that it was an offence to meet people under 16. The next day he spoke to his wife by way of confession and he reported himself to the police.”

Judge Martin Griffith passed a three year Community Order with a condition that Eller attends the Thames Valley Sex Offender Group Programme. He must register as a Sex Offender for five years and will be subject to a Sex Offender Prevention Order. It means he cannot access the internet until the police install risk management software and he must not use software that deletes or encrypts data.

The judge told Eller: “I could have no difficulty in sending you straight to custody, but the sentence I am passing is more onerous. Probation are going to be in the best position to make sure that this offence never happens again.

“I have taken account your good character, your guilty plea and that it was you that notified the police. Go away and don’t come back.”