A MAN who took close-up pictures of young girls on the beach at Southwold has received a suspended jail sentence.

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Matthew Bence, 43, a carpenter, from Wareside, Hertfordshire, had his head in his hands in the dock at St Albans Crown Court as prosecutor Colin Banham outlined a catalogue of offences.

He said Bence came to the attention of the police after they received intelligence about communications on Yahoo messenger.

Officers executed a search warrant at his home on 27 April last year and seized a laptop and camera.

Bence was out, but returned later, saying that any chat on line was “fantasy”.

The Toshiba laptop was examined and the police found 203 images at Level 1 (the least serious level), 11 at Level 3 and nine at Level 4 (the second most serious).

When his camera was analysed, 125 Level 1 images of girls aged between five and nine in swimming costumes and bikinis were discovered, taken on the beach at Southwold on October 2, 2011.

When questioned, he said he had transferred the images from Southwold beach to his computer but had then deleted them.

Bence, previously of Kingham Road, Wareside, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to eight counts of making (downloading) indecent images of children, possessing indecent images of children, four of distributing indecent images of children, taking indecent pictures of a child, possessing extreme pornography, three of publishing obscene articles and cultivating two cannabis plants.

Defence barrister David Claydon said he had no relevant previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

“He expresses his shock and disgust at the way he behaved.”

Mr Claydon said Bence, who has been married for 20 years, has sought help from the Lucy Faithfull foundation – a child abuse charity.

Judge Stephen Gullick passed an eight-week jail sentence suspended for two years. He must abide by a two-year community order and will be supervised on a Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

He told Bence: “The order is to try to ensure you don’t commit offences and to protect children from you.”

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