Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Michael Edward Hatch -AFP Officer caught in Operation Centurion

A former federal policeman has been jailed for five months on child pornography charges by a magistrate who said a ruined career and community ridicule were not punishment enough.

Michael Edward Hatch, 38, will also be required to be of good behaviour for another 18 months after his release.

Hatch's lawyers immediately lodged an appeal against the sentence handed down in the ACT Magistrates Court today.

Hatch was caught in the global investigation codenamed Operation Centurion which has netted more than 100 Australians.

Magistrate Karen Fryar told the court she could not be certain Hatch would not reoffend.

She said a search warrant on Hatch's Canberra home in March 2008 revealed about 20 images of child pornography on his computer's hard disk.

Further searches of his computer revealed about 50 more images of girls as young as four involved in various sexual activities with adults.

A report was provided to the court of about 200 pages of websites entered from the computer's browser, totalling about 5,770 different addresses, mostly concerned with teenaged porn.

Ms Fryar said she took into account Hatch's remorse over his actions, his references of previous good character, the fact that he was suffering from depression and the submission from Hatch's defence that there was little chance of him reoffending.

She said he had suffered a significant fall from grace, losing his career, suffering financial loss, community censure due to media exposure and a loss of reputation with his friends and family.

"I agree that it is unnecessary for me to make a specific finding as to whether the defendant is a pedophile and I would be unable to do so in the face of the psychological opinion before me," Ms Fryar said.

"However, it would be wrong to suggest that his interest in accessing these particular websites was not directly related to the specific content of child pornography.

"Whatever may have been his motive in searching out this material I cannot be positively satisfied that he is not likely to reoffend."

Ms Fryar said the court needed to ensure that the defendant was adequately punished for his criminal behaviour.

"In my view, nothing less than an immediate custodial sentence would appropriately mark the objective seriousness of this offence, act as a deterrent to others, a personal deterrent to and punishment for the defendant," Ms Fryar said.

She said a wholly suspended sentence would be inappropriate.

"I have also had regard to the defendant's prospects for rehabilitation and the fact that as a former police officer imprisonment may be more difficult for him than others," she said.

"On those bases, I have taken the view that the non-parole period should be significantly shortened."

Hatch will be treated as a prisoner at risk when in custody.

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