Ex Cambridgeshire police officer who downloaded vile child abuse images given suspended sentence

A former Cambridgeshire police officer and scout leader has been given a suspended sentence after admitting downloading vile child abuse images - including one showing the rape of a baby.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 4:53 pm

Phillip Richardson - who has changed his name to John Nicholls - was given a suspended sentence by Judge Barbara Mensah who heard he had downloaded the photographs and videos.

Judge Mensah said the ‘public revulsion and humiliation’ he would receive was part of the punishment he faced.

Prosecutor Margia Mostafa told Luton crown court that the 49-year-old officer was arrested on 16 May last year by Bedfordshire police who raided the married officer’s home in March, Cambridgeshire.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise


An iPad and three laptops were examined. Officers found 99 Category A still and moving images - the most serious level. There were 208 at Category B and 218 at Category C, the least serious level.

Search terms used by Nicholls including the words: “F...... Boys,” “Incest”, “Brazilian boys” and “Teen boys kissing.”

In one image a baby was being raped. He had used the internet site Tumblr to distribute a Category B and a Category C image.

When he was interviewed he did not answer police questions, but in a prepared statement he apologised and said he would seek professional help.

Nicholls, who now lives in Doncaster, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to three charges of making (downloading) indecent photograph/pseudo photographs of a child and two of distributing indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of a child.

He had been a beat bobby and the Fenland licensing officer, before being sacked by Cambridgeshire police on July 3rd.

In 2011 he told a local community website in March that he wanted the town to be a dangerous place for criminals. He boasted on the ShapeYourPlace website: “I love locking them up, the more I can get off the streets the better the chances of me having a smiley photo.”

Defending, Minal Raj said the former officer now works in a call centre. She said he was of previous good character and had an “exemplary record.”

She said his wife, who now lives separately from him, had come to support him in court. “It has been embarrassing for him and his entire family. It has not been an easy ride for her. She has found the situation hurtful,” she said.

Ms Raj said Nicholls had experienced traumas in his childhood: a friend had drowned, he saw his vicar die in front of him and he had been abandoned by his father.”

Judge Mensah told him: “They are vile, disgusting and cruel images. It amounts to torture.

“The public revulsion and humiliation which you have received is part of your punishment.”

She sentenced him to 15 months in jail suspended for 24 months. He must attend a ‘Horizon’ sex offender programme, carry out 20 days of a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 200 hours’ unpaid work. The iPad and Laptops were forfeited and he has 28 days to pay £300 costs.

In addition, he must register as a sex offender and abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “These appalling offences are a betrayal of the trust placed in Nicholls as a police officer. By downloading these horrific images, he has helped fuel a vile trade that thrives on the sexual abuse of children.

“More must be done by tech companies and Government to prevent this vile material being published, and to ensure it is quickly removed when it does appear online.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000 or via [email protected]