Paedophile Ring Trio Sentenced

Three members of an international paedophile ring, including a serving soldier, have been sentenced for their part in the abuse of two young children.

Five people were imprisoned in December 2011 at Portsmouth Crown Court for their role in the group which used a nudist website as a cover for their perversions.

They included ringleader Robert Hathaway, 37, of Tyseley Road in Portsmouth, who was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of 12 years and his partner Melissa Noon, 30, who received four years.

Soldier Daniel Bell, 27, who lives in military accommodation but was previously of St James Road in Emsworth was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for a year for a charge of attempting to distribute an indecent image of children.

He was also given concurrent sentences of one month in prison suspended for a year for each of two charges of possessing indecent photos of children.

Elizabeth Bussey-Jones, defending, described her client as the ''newest recruit'' of the ring but who had not actively engaged in sexual activity with either of the two victims.

The court heard that it was a ''matter of discretion'' for Bell's commanding officer whether he would keep his position in the Army.

John Maddox, 47, of Ellis Avenue, Rainham, Essex, a carer for his disabled sister and elderly mother and who works as a volunteer for a hospice, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment for one charge of causing a child to engage in sexual activity and concurrent sentences of two months' imprisonment for two charges of possessing indecent photographs of children.

Adrian Fleming, defending, said that the offences happened at a ''low point'' in his life.

He said: ''He lost a great friend and lost his job and lost himself in hours and hours of late nights of computer usage, falling prey to the availability of all sorts via the internet.''

Father-of-two Mark Day, 45, of Whitefriars Meadow, Sandwich, Kent, whose wife was in court to support him, was jailed for three years for one charge of arranging a child sex offence.

The court heard that Day had planned with Hathaway to take one of the children to a secluded spot and for them to be naked and ''roll around in the mud'' but the trip had not taken place.

Day wiped away tears as he waited to hear his punishment.

Maria-Jane Lamb, defending, said that her client had sought counselling for his offending behaviour.

She added the offence was ''a form of escapism from a personal tragedy and stress at work''.

Sentencing the defendants, Judge Roger Hetherington said:

''An important part of the sentencing in a case like this is to mark society's revulsion at sexual offending against children and to punish you for it.''

All three were ordered to sign the sex offenders' register and banned from working with children.

The computers used for the offences were also confiscated by the court.

Hampshire Police launched their investigation into the ring after being tipped off by the authorities in Australia, who had uncovered a ''mirror image'' ring in Brisbane and Sydney which also abused at least one young child.

A total of 2,000 pages of chat logs were uncovered by police, as well as 14,000 indecent images of children and 300 videos of children being abused.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said the victims were ''systematically and repeatedly'' raped by Hathaway and sexually assaulted on a daily basis in what she described as a ''horrific'' case.

The abuse was documented with thousands of photographs and videos, some as long as 42 minutes, which were distributed by Hathaway over the internet.

The three sentenced today all made contact with Hathaway over the internet using emails and chat logs.

A ninth member of the ring is to be sentenced later this month.

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