Fireman viewed child abuse images after finding friend dead on a 999 call.
A former firefighter narrowly avoided jail for having extreme child abuse images on his computer after magistrates heard he had turned to Tumblr because he was traumatised by finding a friend dead in a car accident while answering a 999 call.
Jake Elsmore-Mann, of Abbey Street, Cinderford had pleaded guilty to four sex charges during a previous hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates Court.
But today (Monday April 24) magistrates gave him a one year sentence suspended for two years after being told the 25-year-old had struggled with his sexuality and was the victim of failed mental health services.
Defence solicitor Will Rose said struggling to come out as gay sparked his depression and being unable to save his friend in the car accident compounded his mental health problems.
Elsmore-Mann turned to the internet photo site Tumblr to try and block out his problems but police raided his home on November 1 2016 after finding out that his computer IP address had been used to access child pornography
During police interviews he admitted that between December 3, 2014 and November 1, 2016 he made 57 indecent images of children – videos and stills – of Category A, the worst kind, 69 indecent images of Category B and 246 of Category C.
The fourth charge relates to possession of five extreme pornographic images depicting a dog.
“Mental health issues are pivotal in this case,” said defence solicitor Mr Rose when bearded Elsmore-Mann appeared in the dock in Cheltenham for sentencing.
“Like so many cases going through the criminal justice system, Mr Elsmore-Mann has been failed by the mental health system.
“As a young man he struggled with his sexuality and, as anyone can imagine, coming out can be daunting, if not petrifying.
He said his client admitted he was gay at the age of 15, started taking anti-depressant medication at the age of 19 and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being first on the scene of fatal road accident involving a close friend a few year later.
Because of this he began to withdraw from face-to-face social situations and spend more and more time in the Tumblr chat rooms, the court heard.
“He had no desire or intention to commit these offences, it was to meet people he could make legal and meaningful relationships with,” said Mr Rose.
“But some of these contacts were all too willing to share illegal material. Mr Elsmore-Mann was not searching for or googling images of child abuse, rather they were sent to him while he was on a chat site.”
The solicitor said it did not make it right because the 25-year-old had looked at the images, saved them and admitted to police that they provided some sort of release from his mental struggles.
But he said the Cinderford butcher had tried and failed to access mental health services for many years and the medication had failed to address the root cause of his problems which he was now tackling with the help of the Together Trust.
Arguing for a non-custodial sentence he said Elsmore-Mann accepted he had to be punished but that mental health intervention would be better than putting somebody of previous good character behind bars.
He pointed out that previous magistrates had decided not to refer the case to crown court because the former fire cadet was of previous good character, there were no aggravating factors and his mental health issues were clear.
Magistrates warned Elsmore Mann downloading 47 category A images, which included ten videos, clearly passed the custody threshold and they had seriously considered putting him behind bars.
But in the end they decided the 12 month sentence should be suspended for two years because he was finally getting help. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years, undertake 40 sessions with the probation service and 20 days on a rehabilitation course and pay £85 costs with a £140 victim surcharge. His computer will be destroyed.
Magistrates turned down a prosecution request for a sexual prevention order which would have banned him from having contact with anybody under 16 because they did not believe it was necessary.
Addressing the public gallery, magistrates said it was rare to see parents in court for such cases and praised Elsmore-Mann’s family for giving him the help and ongoing support he needed to address the mental health issues that had led to the court appearance.
Stewart Edgar, chief fire officer at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, previously said he resigned from the fire service on December 2, 2016, a month after police raided his home.