Former vicar with Diocese of Chelmsford avoids jail after admitting child sex image offences.
A FORMER vicar from the Chelmsford Diocese has avoided jail after he admitted a series of child sex image offences.
Peter Low, 64, of Crescent Road, Heybridge, pleaded guilty in March to three counts of possessing indecent images of children and one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child.
He was sentenced on Tuesday, May 2, to a three-year community order.
The images were discovered when police responded to a report of a burglary at Low’s address.
Chelmsford Crown Court ordered him on Tuesday to complete 150 hours of community service, a sex offender treatment programme and rehabilitation activities.
He was also made the subject of a five-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and told he must and ordered to forfeit his computer, pay £670 in court costs and sign the Sex Offenders’ Register.
Low was a former vicar at St Andrew’s in Heybridge and St Giles in Langford. He was also a former volunteer chaplain for the Sea Cadets in Maldon.
A spokesman for the Chelmsford Diocese said: “Mr Low was suspended from all his duties as soon as the Church was informed of the police investigation.
He resigned but remains suspended pending a streamlined disciplinary process, which can now begin… He is now liable to a penalty, including prohibition from ministry for life.”
Investigating officer PC Paul Dines said there was no suggestion Low had abused the children in the images.
He said: “Officers carried out detailed enquiries and it is believed all the images in his possession were downloaded from the internet, rather than taken by him.
While no victims have been identified, behind every indecent image is a young victim.
“Low occupied a position of trust and we have worked closely with the Diocese of Chelmsford, Essex County Council and other organisations throughout the investigation and onwards to ensure appropriate safeguarding has been put in place.”
A Diocese of Chelmsford spokesman said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to child abuse. The crime of online child abuse was no less serious because the victims were unknown to the perpetrator and did not come from any of the parishes in which he had worked.
“Child abuse is a crime that destroys childhoods. We are horrified by the devastating impact that online child abuse has on society.
“We train people with safeguarding responsibilities in our parishes to understand their responsibilities and refer concerns appropriately.
Anyone with further information about this matter is asked to call Essex Police on 101.
“We are offering pastoral support and are keeping all those affected by the situation in our prayers.”
A Sea Cadets spokesman said: “The safety and wellbeing of young people is of paramount importance to Sea Cadets and the charity takes its duty of care extremely seriously.
“We have strict safeguarding procedures in place and all of our volunteers undergo a DBS check.
“Sea Cadets assisted police with their enquiries and Peter Low was dismissed from his volunteer chaplain role early in the investigation.”