A senior Roman Catholic clergyman caught with more than 30,000 photographs and computer images of children involved in sexual acts was jailed for nine months Monday.
The Rev. Michael O’Kelly, the dean of Reading, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of making indecent images of a child between June 1997 and October 2000.
O’Kelly, 47, who has been receiving treatment at a hospital in Epsom, southern England, was placed under a six-year supervision order — during which time authorities will monitor his behavior — and banned from ever working with children again.
Reading Crown Court also ordered that his name be added to the national sex offenders’ register.
Prosecutors said the images of children, found on videos, magazines and stored on computer disks, also involved bestiality and were “disturbing, degrading and disgusting.”
Police and Customs officials arrested O’Kelly in October at the house he shared with another priest at Tilehurst, near Reading, after a long investigation into his behavior.
Passing sentence, Justice Stanley Spence said O’Kelly’s case “is indeed a tragedy.”
“What you have done assists to perpetrate the abuse of children, the mere fact that you have indulged in it perpetrates those who assist in this awful treatment of children,” he said.
O’Kelly told police he ran up phone bills of up to 1,500 pounds (dlrs 2,200) a month by spending hours in Internet chat rooms and downloading images from the Web.
In one statement read out in court, he admitted that “having gained access to the Internet, I couldn’t control it. I was afraid, but I followed. I simply did not or could not control it.”
Prosecutors said there was no evidence to suggest that O’Kelly had shared the images with others or physically abused children.
When O’Kelly was charged, he was placed on administrative leave, the church’s term for suspension and officials said his position would be considered after sentencing.
There was no immediate word on Monday about his future.