Retired Met Police officers guilty in sharing some of 'most serious' child sexual abuse images seen
Two retired Metropolitan Police officers have admitted a three-year plot to share child sexual abuse images with a serving Met chief inspector, who was found dead before he was charged.
Jack Addis, 63 and Jeremy Laxton, 62, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday to a charge of conspiring with Richard Watkinson, 49, to distribute or show indecent images of children.
Watkinson, who was a serving Met chief inspector for neighbourhood policing at the West Area Command Unit, was found dead in Buckinghamshire on January 12.
He had been suspended from duty following his arrest in July 2021 and was that day due to answer bail to be charged with the conspiracy, as well as three counts of making indecent photos of a child, voyeurism and two counts of misconduct in public office.
His death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and an inquest has opened and adjourned.
According to the charge, the three men conspired to “distribute or show indecent images of children to each other” between January 1, 2018, and July 10, 2021.
The images, which were found on a computer hard drive, included 2,516 in Category A – the worst kind – 1,032 in Category B and 1,701 in Category C.
Laxton, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, also pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of a child, possession of a prohibited image, possessing an extreme pornographic image and possession of cannabis on or before September 20, 2021.
The images include 6,086 in Category A, 4,039 in Category B, 3,597 in Category C, seven prohibited images of a child and 56 extreme pornographic images which were “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an extreme character” depicting a person having sex with an animal, according to the indictment.
He further admitted a charge of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of the offence of misconduct in a public office between December 1, 2019, and May 1, 2021.
The court heard Laxton, who appeared in the dock wearing a dark grey suit, has previously pleaded guilty to similar offences at Lincoln Crown Court, while Addis, from Perthshire, is a serving prisoner in Scotland.
He appeared in court by video-link from HMP Dumfries where he is serving an 18-month sentence for three counts of voyeurism and possessing indecent photographs of a child.
Judge Tony Baumgartner adjourned sentencing to a date to be fixed and granted Laxton conditional bail ahead of the next hearing on June 23.
The judge said: “A lengthy custodial sentence is inevitable but I will extend bail again to allow him to put his life in order.”
His bail conditions include residence at his home address, surrendering his passport and not applying for documents to travel outside of England and Wales, that he has no contact with children apart from named family members, and informing police of any digital devices.
At the defendants' first appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this year, prosecutor Edward Franklin said some of the images discovered in the investigation were at the “highest end” of Category A.
Met officers found Watkinson’s body having attended an address in Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, following welfare concerns.
Commander Jon Savell previously said: "The content that these men had been viewing has been described by seasoned specialist investigators as some of the most serious that they had ever seen.
“We must never forget that in each video or picture is a real child victim who has suffered unimaginable abuse. The effects of child sexual abuse are often traumatic and life-long, and Laxton and Addis both sought sexual gratification from that suffering.
“As a police service, we strive to protect the most vulnerable members of society, especially children, and I know officers who served with them will feel utterly betrayed by their disgusting actions. We are sickened that they are former colleagues.”
He added: "Chief Inspector Watkinson was facing extremely serious and concerning charges, as the result of a painstaking and thorough police investigation.
“Before this matter came to light, we had no previous information about these allegations or to indicate the officer posed any risk to the public.
“He had not faced any other criminal or conduct matters during his Met career. He had been suspended from duty since his arrest.
“Two other men were also arrested during the course of the investigation and have been charged, their matters will now progress through the courts.”
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