Retired Lancashire Police chief inspector Steven Sansbury downloaded 10 indecent images of young boys

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A retired senior police officer from Lancashire Police has been sentenced to a 12-month community order after admitting downloading indecent images of young boys.

Ex-chief inspector Steven Sansbury, 55, left Lancashire Police in shame after the pictures were discovered after his arrest in January 2021.

Seven category B images of boys, aged between 13 and 15, and three category C images of boys, aged between eight and 15, were found on a laptop and a portable hard drive, Manchester Crown Court was told.

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Sansbury’s offending in 2009 emerged after he was arrested at his home in Blackburn and the two devices were seized.Philip Barnes, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was interviewed in August 2021 and he explained that he accepted he had searched for homosexual pornography.

Manchester Crown Court image: GoogleManchester Crown Court image: Google
Manchester Crown Court image: Google

“He had a particular interest in twinks – adults with the appearance of young, hairless men."

David Pojer, defending, said: “Mr Sansbury comes before the court humiliated, having been a senior police officer for three decades.

“The effect of losing his good character and moving from a senior officer to the dock is a salutary lesson. It is sobering.”

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He said the offending involved a “very limited number of images”, with no determined internet searches.

Judge Nicholas Dean KC, the Honorary Recorder of Manchester, ruled the case did not cross the custodial threshold.

He told Sansbury: “You served, no doubt with some distinction, as a senior police officer for many years but the circumstances in which you have the left the police have brought significant shame to you.

“Those who are determined to access this sort of material, which sadly is too easily accessed on the internet, will do so persistently and often accumulate thousands of individual images.

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“In circumstances not entirely clear, you kept them in a folder before this criminality was uncovered. It is clear that you are not someone who seeks out this type of material in any sort of consistent way.

“The loss of your good character and the shame of your departure from the police force in these circumstances is plainly a significant punishment.”

Judge Dean imposed a 12-month community order involving 80 hours of unpaid work and a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Sansbury will remain on the sex offenders register for five years.

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The charges came as a result of a proactive investigation by the force’s Anti-Corruption Unit, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Eugene Swift said: “We know the public will understandably be as appalled as we are by this abhorrent offending, which is made more shocking by the fact it was committed by somebody in a position of trust.

“I would like to reassure the public that Sansbury was suspended from duty when his offending first came to light, which was as a result of an investigation by our Professional Standards Department.

“Our Anti-Corruption Unit work tirelessly to identify any behaviours that fall short of what the public expect from serving police officers and police staff to maintain public confidence. Where there is evidence of criminality, as was the case with Sansbury, we pursue prosecution.”

Gross misconduct proceedings will take place to establish what action would have been taken against Sansbury had he still been a serving officer, police added.