Norwich paedophile's crimes helped by lottery win - claim

Ben KendallA Norwich sex offender is suspected of using some of a �50,000 lottery win to buy equipment to help him run a nationwide paedophile ring, it has emerged.Ben Kendall

A Norwich sex offender is suspected of using some of a �50,000 lottery win to buy equipment to help him run a nationwide paedophile ring, it has emerged.

Carl Gardner, 30, of Coleburn Road, in Old Lakenham, Norwich, was jailed yesterday after admitting a string of offences at Norwich Crown Court.

Detectives said he had been at the centre of a network of paedophiles which distributed indecent images of children.

Police said Gardner - who had previous convictions for possessing child pornography - won his lottery prize three years ago and investigators suspect that he used some of the cash to buy mobile phones and computer equipment.

Michael Clare, mitigating for Gardner, told the court: 'He lost control of his life when he won �50,000 on the lottery.'

Mr Clare added that, since being placed on a sex offenders' programme, Gardner's past had become common knowledge in his neighbourhood and he had been subjected to verbal abuse.

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'He realises he has a problem and wants help,' Mr Clare said.

Gardner pleaded guilty to 13 offences, including possessing and making indecent images of children and possessing extreme adult pornography.

Detectives arrested him in July 2009 after becoming suspicious about his activities on internet chat rooms. They seized mobile phones and discovered more than 170 indecent images. Police said Gardner appeared to be downloading internet images then passing them on to others for payment.

His arrest led to police forces across the country arresting eight other men connected to the ring. More arrests are expected as officers say the total number of people involved in the operation could eventually run into hundreds as the full extent of the ring becomes clear.

Gardner would distribute images to an 'inner circle', who would then pass them on to a wider network. Officers are also trying to establish whether the gang distributed only existing images of children or if some members had taken pictures of their own children.

Gardner was put on the sex offenders' register in 2006 after downloading pornography at work while employed by ACRO an independent Norfolk charity helping to resettle offenders in the community. He has previous convictions, including one for downloading photographs of naked boys at Norwich's Millennium Library in 2003.

Judge Simon Barham sentenced him to three years and four months in prison. He was put on the sex offenders' register and disqualified from working with children.

He was also made the subject of a sex offenders' prevention order under which he must not have contact with any person aged under 16 anywhere or possess or buy a computer or laptop or have any contact with the internet or mobile phones.

Do you have a crime story for the Evening News? Contact crime correspondent Ben Kendall on 01603 772423 or email