MoD police officer from Cumbria caught with illegal child sex abuse images is spared jail

Andrew Stevenson, was found with more than 160 indecent images of children by police at his South Cumbria home. Credit: Craig McGlasson News

A Ministry of Defence police officer who had scores of child sexual abuse images on an online file storage platform has been spared a prison sentence.

Andrew Stevenson, 24, has lost his job after admitting to making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared at Carlisle Crown Court on Friday 23 September for sentencing.

A judge heard he had been dismissed from his job — as a Barrow-in-Furness-based firearms officer — the previous day at a fast-tracked disciplinary hearing.

He had previously been suspended from duty.

Stevenson’s crimes came to light as Cumbria Police officers executed a warrant at his home in Ulverston on 17 August 2021.

One illegal image was found on an iPhone which was seized along with an iPad and desk top computer.

During forensic examination more unlawful still and moving images were found within an iCloud storage system which had been accessed eight times in six months.

A total of 94 indecent photographs of children were classed in category A — the most serious, with 37 others classed in category B and 34 more in category C.

Folders entitled “13-plus” and “10-14” were found along with concerning search terms which appeared to have been used, the court heard.

Prosecutor Kim Whittlestone said the offences were aggravated by the length of time over which they had been committed, and the presence of moving images.

Some of these short films of child abuse were several minutes long and most featured pre-pubescent youngsters.

Stevenson, now of West Park Crescent, Kilmaurs, near Kilmarnock, admitted three charges of making indecent photographs of a child.

Ellen Wright, mitigating, said Stevenson was a man of previous good character, who was described as being “embarrassed” by his conduct.

She said: “Putting it bluntly, there is no excuse for the behaviour of Mr Stevenson and he doesn’t wish for me to make any excuses.

“He is thoroughly and utterly ashamed of himself. He accepts full responsibility for his behaviour, his actions. He has pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.”

Substantial media coverage of an earlier court hearing meant Stevenson had “essentially had to go into hiding”, staying at home with the curtains drawn, the court was told.

Care and assistance he gave his grandparents would be “impacted significantly” if he was sent to prison, and there would be less chance of him being rehabilitated.

Recorder Anna Vigars KC imposed a three-year community order comprising rehabilitation work, as well as 200 hours community service. 

she said: “You were a serving police officer. In your particular role you would have had limited contact with members of the public…the one of constable is one in which the public should be able to invest trust. That breaks down when police officers behave like this.”

Stevenson must sign the sex offenders’ register and abide by the strict terms of a sexual harm prevention order, both for five years. All three devices seized must be forfeited.

Speaking after the hearing, an MOD spokesperson said: “We condemn the actions of this former Ministry of Defence police officer, who has been dismissed without notice.”

Senior crown prosecutor Katie Beattie, for CPS North West, added: “As a serving police officer, Andrew Stevenson was expected to uphold the law and protect people.

“By downloading these images he was feeding directly into an industry which sexually exploits children.

“The CPS and the police will continue to work together to robustly prosecute anyone who commits such abhorrent offences, particularly those in positions of trust in our society.”