The sentence of former Exeter councillor Roger Spackman for downloading photos of children being sexually abused follows one of the biggest investigations of its kind conducted by Devon and Cornwall Police.
Spackman was arrested at his home in 2017 where 68 items and electronic devices, including hard drives and mobile phones, were seized by officers from the Paedophile Online Investigation Team.
In excess of 36,000 indecent images of children, prohibited images and extreme pornographic images were identified from the near five million images and movies that were recovered as part of the investigation. Exeter Crown Court was told there were 290,672 illegal images, of which only about an eighth were analysed.
Specialist investigators spent over 100 hours categorising the images and identified illegal material dated from 2007 to 2017. Each image had to be reviewed, evidenced and assigned a category consistent with the severity of its content; with Category A classed as the most severe.
The Investigators identified 58 Category A, 49 Category B and 27,520 Category C movies and pictures. They also identified 8,682 prohibited pictures and 370 extreme pictures and movies.
Following a near three-year investigation, Spackman was summonsed to court to face charges in June 2020 where he entered a guilty plea to five charges: possessing a prohibited image of a child, possessing extreme pornographic images portraying a sexual act with an animal and three counts of making an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child.
Following his guilty plea, Spackman was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register.
He further appeared at Exeter Crown Court today where he was sentenced by the judge to 10 months suspended for two years and given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
Detective Chief Inspector Rachael Bentley, from the Public Protection Unit, said: “This was both a complex and lengthy investigation and remains one of the largest visual media reviews we have seen in Force with almost five million images and movies reviewed and 36,000 found to contain illegal material.
“DC Angela Thomas, the investigating officer, was supported by officers from the Paedophile Online Investigation Team and the SWF Data Forensic Unit to trawl through hours of disturbing imagery and categorise it based on the severity of the content. This can be hugely challenging for those involved in the case and understandably it can be very difficult to deal with.
“It is absolutely crucial that we don’t forget that these are not victimless crimes. Although Mr Spackman has not been convicted of taking photos of children himself, all of the children in these photos have at one stage and in some cases on multiple occasions been victims of abuse. Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to investigate these horrendous crimes in order to protect the vulnerable and bring offenders to justice.”
Information and guidance on keeping children safe online can be found on the Devon and Cornwall Police website, as well as details on how to report online and sexual abuse crimes – https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/your-internet-safety/ .
There are also agencies who support both families living with the trauma and impact of child abuse and those that work with offenders and potential offenders such as the Lucy Faithful Foundation who offer help to anyone impacted by child sexual abuse – https://www.lucyfaithfull.org.uk/ .
Get help if you have been affected by crime
For free practical help and advice contact Victim Support 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 08081689111 or live webchat at victimsupport.org.uk
For bespoke local services call the Devon and Cornwall Victim Care Unit on 01392 475900 or find out more about the unit by visiting victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk
Reporting a crime:
In an emergency call 999. Non emergencies can be reported at dc.police.uk via webchat or online form, alternatively call 101
After the hearing a spokesman for Exeter City Council said: “Roger Spackman resigned as an elected member for Newtown & St Leonards in 2017 before being charged. The resignation was immediate and a by-election triggered.”
DevonLive uncovered details of Spackman’s arrest in 2017. We revealed he was under police investigation for an alleged child indecent image offence.
The Labour councillor had a 12-year career in Devon’s child protection services.
In 1998 he began working at Intervention Services for Devon County Council at a secure children’s home, occasionally working at other units. Before this, he was involved in the creation of Riverside Youth Café in Dawlish.
From September 2001 he worked full-time at a Secure Children’s Home until his role was axed in redundancies in February 2010.
He resigned from his post as Newtown & St Leonard’s ward councillor on October 30, 2017 He quit the role because of the police inquiry.
Following his resignation his former colleagues said that they had “no idea” why Spackman had quit his role.
Alongside being a city councillor, in recent years he claimed to offer ‘software support’ for a major UK retailer.
Between 2007 and 2010 he was Branch Secretary for the Devon County Council branch of UNISON – one of the largest in the UK.
He also chaired Exeter Labour Group between 2010 and 2014.
After the sentencing a spokesman for Devon County Council said: “Mr Spackman was employed by Devon County Council between 1998 and 2010 having undergone all required checks, including Criminal Record checks. Devon County Council has no record of complaints or allegations regarding his behaviour or conduct. Mr Spackman has never been a Devon County Councillor.”