A MAN who was the face of a shop in the heart of Witney has been spared jail after viewing thousands of sexual pictures of children.

Ian Pilcher, 63, who for 30 years worked at Domino Menswear in Corn Street, was yesterday handed a community sentence at Oxford Magistrates’ Court for making (downloading) indecent images of children.

The court heard Pilcher viewed the images to ‘cheer himself up’.

Pilcher, of Apley Way, Witney, had pleaded guilty to downloading more than 5,000 indecent images of children.

The court was told that Pilcher, who has been married for 34 years, had a preference for Category C images of young girls.

The Oxford Times:

Police seized a number of electronic devices from Pilcher’s home and he helped identify where to find material.

John Berry, defending, said Pilcher’s interest in looking at the indecent images came during a difficult period of his life.

He said: “His son attempted suicide. His sister-in-law committed suicide. Both of these happened just a year before he began looking at these images.

“His employer had become unwell and Mr Pilcher was having to work very long hours. He was at a very low ebb and found that looking at these images cheered him up, to use his expression.”

Mr Berry said Pilcher’s obsession grew over time. He quoted Pilcher as saying: “I was at a point I could not stop it. I’m glad the police came along because I knew that would cause me to stop it.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong.”

Mr Berry said that Pilcher was yet to reach a full understanding of his desire to look at indecent images.

He continued: “He has some insight into his offending but I’m not sure he fully understands why it started.

“He doesn’t fully accept that he must have found the images stimulating.

“He has been to see a doctor and is receiving counselling. He better understands that, though he has not done anything to harm young girls, that this sort of behaviour has or could result in young girls being harmed.

“He is willing to work fully with anyone able to help him.”

District Judge Kamlesh Rana gave Pilcher an 18-month community sentence, which included 100 hours of unpaid work and a 30-day rehabilitation requirement.

She said it was ‘regrettable’ Pilcher was appearing in court after a life of previously good character.

The judge added: “I have to take into account the number of images and that, by viewing these images, you were condoning the exploitation of young children.”

District Judge Rana also ordered a sexual harm prevention order that will control how Pilcher accesses various electronic devices.

Pilcher appeared in the Oxford Mail in October when he revealed that Domino Menswear, which had sold menswear and school uniforms for 34 years, was moving to Abingdon to escape soaring business rates.

Pilcher, who was made redundant after the story was published, said at the time he was ‘immensely sad’ after serving four generations of customers at the store.