Diocese of Chichester vicar jailed for possessing 22,000 indecent images

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A vicar found with more than 20,000 indecent images of children on his computer has been jailed.

David Renshaw was found guilty of eight offences following a trial which concluded at Hove Crown Court on Tuesday 7 February.

These consisted of three counts of possessing indecent images of children; three counts of making indecent images of children; possessing prohibited images of children; and possessing extreme pornographic images portraying acts of intercourse with animals, namely dogs and horses.

The 63-year-old, of Wallace Avenue, Worthing, came to the attention of authorities in June 2019 after an illegal image was identified on a file sharing website in New Zealand.

The account was attributed to Renshaw via his email address and IP address, so officials alerted the National Crime Agency, who in turn alerted Sussex Police.

Police seized a number of devices after obtaining and executing a search warrant at his address in August 2020. A total of 22,504 illegal images were discovered.

The RSPCA also seized a number of dogs, cats and chickens that were found in a severely malnourished state.

Renshaw, vicar of Holy Trinity and Christ Church in Worthing, was arrested and charged with the offences, all of which he denied.

The charges, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an intelligence-led investigation by the Sussex Police Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT).

The case was committed to Hove Crown Court for trial, where Renshaw was found guilty of all eight counts by jury. He was bailed until 25 May at the same court, where he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay £4,200 in fines.

His sentence also included a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and the destruction of all offending material.

Passing sentencing, the judge praised the Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) for their hard work, acknowledging the effect the investigation would have had on officers reviewing the evidence.

They added that Renshaw remains a high risk to children and demonstrated a profound breach of trust to parishioners and the wider church community.

Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant David Rose, said: “Throughout this investigation, Renshaw sought to blame anyone but himself. He failed to accept or take any responsibility for his actions, which I am certain the local parish he represented would be appalled by.

“Through painstaking and careful enquiries, we were able to show that the child abuse images were on his computer, saved under his username and found on a hard drive on his desk. The sheer number of images indicate that they were accumulated over a protracted period of time.

“The search of his address was one of the most revolting tasks our officers will ever have to endure. As well as malnourished living animals, there was also a dead rotting kitten and a dead rotting rat on the floor, in addition to used needles and other drug paraphernalia lying around. It was a deeply unpleasant scene to search.

“It was also a particularly harrowing experience for the officer who had to sift through and grade each image, something that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“I am grateful to our partner agencies for their support, and to the Diocese of Chichester for their full co-operation throughout the investigation.

“All necessary safeguarding enquiries were carried out and there was no risk to any identifiable children in the case.”