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21 December 2010, 15:26
A man who was caught taking pictures of young girls as they got changed in a leisure centre was later found to have amassed a hoard of indecent images of children.
Police went to Martin Fitch's home in St Albans after the incident at Watford Leisure Centre and there discovered more than 4,500 images of children that he had downloaded from the internet.
At St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday Fitch, 39, a single, unemployed man, pleaded guilty to 14 offences of making indecent images of children and one offence of possessing indecent images.
Mr Justice Cooke was told that some of the material discovered included the worst of child sex abuse images on the internet.
Isobel Delamere, prosecuting, told how the defendant came to the notice of police on
2 May 2009 following a complaint that was made at Woodside Leisure Centre in Watford.
In court today (Tuesday), the judge was told that that matter, which involved the taking of pictures of young girls under cubicle doors at the centre, was not proceeded with.
But, said Miss Delamere, as part of the investigation police went to the defendant's home in Aylett Nursery, North Orbital Road in St Albans, where they seized two computer towers.
The court heard an examination of the equipment found that the defendant had downloaded 4,550 images of children.
The prosecutor said ten of the images were at level 5 - the very worst type of child sex material.
Miss Delamere said that Fitch had previous convictions for driving matters only.
Daniel Murray, defending, told the court Fitch had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity and the matter had been hanging over his head for 18 months.
Mr Murray described Fitch as a "vulnerable individual" who was a lonely figure and who had lost contact with his family.
The barrister said that some years earlier Fitch had become involved with a drug dealer in Nottingham, who had forced him to act as a courier.
He said that because the man lives in the same street as Fitch's parents, he had severed all contacts with them.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Cooke told Fitch "This matter came to light following an incident at a leisure centre when you were found to have been taking photographs under cubicle doors of girls in the girls' changing rooms."
The judge went on: "The pre-sentence report concludes that there is a high risk of serious harm to children."
He said that in his judgement Fitch posed a significant risk to members of the public.
He sentenced Fitch to an extended 4 years jail sentence.