A PERVERTED fantasist from Wem who bragged about sexually abusing his own imaginary son, has been sent to jail for 34 months.

Wayne Ford made dozens of illegal images and shared some of them in explicit online chats.

The court was told that in those chats – which took place on several online platforms and phone applications used by gay men – he said he was interested in children “from zero upwards”.

Ford, of no fixed abode but formerly landlord of the Hawkestone Arms pub in New Street, had previously pleaded guilty to seven offences at Telford Magistrates’ Court but the case was sent to Shrewsbury Crown Court due to the seriousness of the offending.

The court was told on Thursday, June 29, that West Mercia Police were alerted to the 36-year-old’s online chats by the National Crime Agency, via an American-based anti-child exploitation group.

Caroline Harris KC, prosecuting, told the court that Ford had initially been arrested in September 2020 and admitted possessing indecent images of child and of children being sexually exploited.

He then continued to take part in sexually explicit online chats depicting child sex abuse the following year but unbeknownst to him this was with an undercover police officer.

She said in interview he said “it was all a fantasy.”

She continued: “He said he wasn’t interested in young children but he got off on giving others pleasure.

“He knew it was illegal to possess the images but he didn’t know it was illegal to distribute them.”

She added: “He said if he thought the abuse was real he would have reported it but he though it was a fantasy for them like it was for him.”

Adrian Roberts KC, said his client had not been involved in any actual abuse himself but was worried about a custodial sentence.

He continued: “It’s clear he doesn’t really appreciate the impact on the victims.

“He realises he has put himself in peril here with how he has got himself into this situation but he has decided he must change his life.”

Mr Roberts said the case had cost Ford his relationship and his job as a landlord.

Ford pleaded guilty that on September 17, 2020, he made 55 category A images of child sexual abuse, and also possessed two prohibited category A images. 

On the same date, he made a further 24 images of category B and 21 category C images. 

The court heard that on May 26, 2020 he also distributed two category A images and one further image on July 9 that year. 

He also pleaded guilty to publishing an obscene article by discussing the sexual abuse of a child, using apps and online chat, between March and April 2, 2021, while the 2020 offences were being investigated.

Judge Peter Barrie told Ford: "Every image of a child that is circulated on the internet derives from a child being gravely abused in the making of it.

"In this case we are concerned with children of a very young age being abused in very serious ways.

"Everybody who downloads images helps keep the business going. More than that, you joined in with it by distributing them to other people who shared your interests."

Judge Barrie said this took the offence to “a new level of seriousness because you are actively promoting the images.”

He also said it was “a serious aggravating feature that the children were so young and the nature of the activities puts this squarely in Category A for seriousness.”

Judge Barrie sentenced Ford to 28 months in prison for two counts of distributing an indecent image of a child in 2020, with a further six months to be served consecutively for publishing an obscene article in his conversation with the undercover police officer in 2021.

He also received eight months for three charges of making indecent photographs in 2020 and possessing a prohibited image of a child in 2020 which will be served concurrently.

Ford will serve half his 34-month sentence in prison and the other half on licence.

He was also made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and the forfeiture and destruction of his seized devices and the material on them was ordered.

Following the hearing, Detective Inspector Matt McNelis said: “These are vile crimes that perpetuate the suffering of child victims here and around the world. Often these images are of children being raped and tortured.

"I would like to compliment the Online CSE Team based in Shrewsbury for their determination in bringing Ford to justice. It is heartening for the team and for the community as a whole to see a custodial sentence handed down together with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order which will further mitigate risk when Ford is released.”