Disgraced Norfolk vicar gets suspended jail term for possession of indecent images of children

PUBLISHED: 12:34 22 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:02 23 December 2017

Andrew Mitcham arriving at court. Picture: Ian Burt

Andrew Mitcham arriving at court. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

A disgraced Norfolk vicar found with indecent images of children and extreme pornographic images has been given an eight month suspended jail term after the court heard how his life now lay in ruins.

Andrew Mitcham, 51, who was vicar of six churches in the Walsingham area, was found to have downloaded the images when police searched the vicarage where he was living at the time, in July this year, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Mitcham of Church Street, Walsingham, admitted possession of indecent photographs and extreme porn images and possession of prohibited images of children.

Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said police carried out the search and found a small number of images of which nine were in the most serious category.

He said some of the images were of very young children aged as young as five.

Michael Clare, for Mitcham, said there were complex reasons behind his offending and he had already sought help from a psychotherapist and had spent time living in a monastery trying to come to terms with what he had done.

He said there was only a small number of images and Mitcham was remorseful: “He feels very deeply that he has let his friends down and let the church down and let people that have supported him down.”

He said Mitcham had already brought significant punishment on himself and will lose his job and home and also his “impeccable” good character.

“There will be a disciplinary hearing and he will be suspended and will lose his job. He will accept the punishment the church will impose.”

Mr Clare added: “He has endured already significant punishment as a consequence of these images being found on his devices.”

Mr Clare said Mitcham hoped that he could continue some of his work following a period of suspension and said there had been a large number of character references in support of Mitcham, which had been handed in to the court.

Mr Clare added: “It has been his vocation for a very long time and he does not want to be ruled out of it completely.”

Sentencing him, Judge Stephen Holt said: “There is clearly true remorse. As to why you did this offending relatively late is extremely complex.”

He accepted Mitcham had sought professional help and was of low risk of re-offending.

He was also ordered to be on the sex offender’s register for 10 years,

After his sentencing, John Howard, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said that following Mitcham’s arrest, in July, he was immediately suspended from ministry in Norfolk.

He said that when Father Mitcham was in Suffolk he was rector of churches in Eye, Occold and Bedingfield and he said no concerns were raised during his church role there.

“Although none of these offences took place in connection with his Suffolk church role in any way, we take such offences extremely seriously, and our thoughts and prayers are very much with anyone who has been affected.

“This will have been a painful and difficult time for all those involved, we are conscious that people will have been hurt by this, and we deeply regret that.”

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