A FORMER prison officer downloaded 144 images of child pornography because he wanted to be arrested and then commit suicide in prison, a court was told.

David John Hepworth, aged 38, worked as a prison officer at Guy’s Marsh in Sturminster Newton for 14 years.

He was sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates Court on Thursday, August 13, after pleading guilty to three charges of making indecent photographs of a child. A total of 144 images of child pornography were found on his mobile phone following a police raid at his previous address, the court heard.

Charles Nightingale, prosecuting, said: “The defendant’s home address was the subject of a search warrant which was executed. During that search a number of items were seized, including a tower computer, a laptop, a further tower PC, a USB unit and a Samsung mobile phone.”

Following analysis of the phone a number of images were found, including 137 category C images, four category B images and three category A images - the most severe category of images.

Mr Nightingale added: “He has said the attempt was to commit an offence to get into prison and then commit suicide in prison.

“It’s unfortunate that these images were created outside the UK and accessed inside the UK. The market, of which the defendant is a part of, is what pays for these children being abused. It’s not free, it’s a market.”

Hepworth’s solicitor, Ms Larkin, said: “He worked for 14 years in the prison service in Guy’s Marsh. There were many incidents over the years that he was subjected to. Two particular incidents pushed him over the edge.

“He was a victim of an assault where a prisoner threw urine at him with a mug. The second incident was he witnessed someone taking their life and this had a profound affect on him. He left the prison service six weeks afterwards.

“This affected his mental health quite severely; he still suffers with flashbacks and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also suffers with anxiety and depression.”

Ms Larkin added that Hepworth did not get any sexual gratification from the images.

“He downloaded them from December until May and then never looked at them again. He wasn’t arrested until October.

“He accepts what he did was wrong. He is genuinely remorseful for his behaviour. Mental health-wise he was not in his right mind when he committed these offences.”

Hepworth was placed on the sexual offenders register, handed a five-year sexual harm prevention order and a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He was also told to pay a fine of £115 and £85 costs. He was told to fulfill 14 rehabilitation activity days with the probation service, as well as 120 hours unpaid work.

Magistrate Robert Ford added: “These are very, very serious offences, images of young girls.

“All we can say is you need to fully comply with the probation officer and take every chance you have while they are working with you to turn your life around.”