Hammond judge lets ex-Cambridge student walk

Alice Baghdijan - Deputy News Editor 8 June 2009

The judge who suspended the prison sentence of Dr Nicholas Hammond has sparked controversy again after allowing a Cambridge student convicted of possessing child porn to walk free from jail.

Judge Gareth Hawthorne said that sending Jonathan Jenkins, a former Selwyn student, to prison would be ‘cruel and pointless’ and would ruin his studies.
Jenkins, who is now a student at the University of Bath, was caught with 293 pornographic images of children on his computer following a police raid on his Cambridge accommodation in 2007. Five of the images he had downloaded, which featured girls aged between 9 and 15, were rated as ‘Level 5′, the most serious classification for child porn images.

The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to 15 counts of making and 1 count of possessing indecent images of children. The court heard how Jenkins, who downloaded the pornography as a teenager, had not looked at the images for a number of years, though they remained on his hard disk.

Jenkins has been placed on the sex offenders’ register and has been banned from any contact with children, but was spared prison. Judge Hawthorne said: “A sentence in prison for a short period of time would be a cruel and pointless exercise. It would do nothing to help you.”

Instead, Jenkins was given a four month suspended sentence, a move that has been heavily criticised by children’s charities.

Claudia Knights, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: “A four-month suspended sentence does not send out the required strong message and does not act as a deterrent. “The concern about the interruption of his studies will be read with some anger by the victims of child abuse.”

This controversy comes less than a year after Judge Hawthorne was criticised for suspending the prison sentence of Dr Nicholas Hammond, a former Fellow and DoS at Caius, after he was convicted of possessing child pornography. Dr Hammond admitted to possessing 1,540 indecent images of children on his computer, some of which featured babies as young as two days old.

This week, he returned from paid leave to his £55,000-per-year job at the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, after walking free last year with a 12 month suspended sentence. Hammond was also put on the Sex Offenders’ Register and was fined £1000. Judge Hawthorne said of Hammond:
“You are highly motivated to heal yourself and as a highly intelligent man you have the capacity to do so.”

Claudia Knights of Kidscape was critical of the ruling made by Judge Hawthorne and the actions taken by the University, arguing that they failed to reflect the serious nature of Hammond’s crime.

“We don’t feel that the sanctions imposed address the seriousness of the offences,” she said. “People who are not in academic safe houses have to face the consequences of their actions…when we see someone in a privileged position being protected and cosseted, it is not helpful.”

But the University has defended its decision to allow Hammond back to work as a reader at the French department. “The decision to allow Dr Hammond to remain in its employment was not one the university took lightly,” a university spokesman said. “The University was mindful of the judge’s views regarding the mitigating circumstances of the case. “These included the Judge’s comments that Dr Hammond did not demonstrate a sexual preference for children, had not acted inappropriately towards children or students, and that he should have the opportunity to rehabilitate himself back into society.”

Alice Baghdijan – Deputy News Editor