Two retired Metropolitan Police officers have been jailed for a three-year plot to share “the most depraved” child sexual abuse images together with a serving Met chief inspector, who was found dead before he was charged.
Jack Addis, 63, and Jeremy Laxton, 63, were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring with Richard Watkinson, 49, to distribute or show indecent images of children.
The images and videos had been shared “for their own sexual pleasure” via a hard drive that the men added to when they met up, the court heard.
Watkinson, who was a serving Met chief inspector for neighbourhood policing at the West Area Command Unit, was found dead at his home in Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, on January 12, following welfare concerns.
The court heard he took his own life.
He had been suspended from duty following his arrest in July 2021 and was that day due to answer bail to be charged with the conspiracy, as well as three counts of making indecent photos of a child, voyeurism and two counts of misconduct in public office.
According to the charge, the three men conspired to “distribute or show indecent images of children to each other” between January 1 2018 and July 10 2021.
The images, which were found on a computer hard drive, included 2,516 in Category A – the worst kind, 1,032 in Category B and 1,701 in Category C.
Laxton, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to a slew of other offences for which he was sentenced.
Karen Walton, for Laxton, said her client has to live with the public deeming him “part and parcel” of trust in the police force being at “an all-time low”.
Mr Justice Wall jailed Addis, from Perthshire in Scotland, for three years and nine months, and Laxton for five years and nine months.
The judge said: “The images you traded in were of the most depraved.”
He added: “You had each been policemen and although not working directly in child protection must have been fully aware of the damage done to real children by the filming of such disturbing images.”
On top of the conspiracy charge, Laxton also pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of a child, possession of a prohibited image, possessing an extreme pornographic image and possession of cannabis on or before September 20 2021.
The images include 6,086 in Category A, 4,039 in Category B, 3,597 in Category C, seven prohibited images of a child and 56 extreme pornographic images which were “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an extreme character” depicting a person having sex with an animal, according to the indictment.
Investigators found devices in a “cavity” Laxton had created behind the walls of his home after seeing a message he sent someone to say he “buried” his equipment within the walls.
One officer, tasked with looking through the material, described one of the images as “one of the most disturbing Category A images in existence”.
Laxton further pleaded guilty to a charge of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of the offence of misconduct in a public office between December 1 2019 and May 1 2021.
Laxton admitted separate offences at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court, for which he was also sentenced on Friday.
In Lincoln, he admitted three counts of possessing indecent images of children, possessing extreme pornographic images, possessing prohibited images and possessing cannabis.
Appearing in the dock in a dark grey suit, Laxton was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for the conspiracy charge running consecutive to 15 months in jail for encouraging or assisting the commission of the offence of misconduct in a public office.
The overall sentence will run concurrently to two years in prison for each offence relating to category A images and eight months for each of the remaining offences.
Addis appeared in court by video-link from HMP Durham where he is serving an 18-month sentence for three counts of voyeurism and possessing indecent photographs of a child.
He joined the Met Police in 1978, became a sergeant and then a firearms officer in a specialist firearms unit before leaving to join the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2010.
In a letter to the judge, Addis apologised to “everyone” affected by his actions and said: “I made a terrible mistake. One that I will regret for the rest of my life.
“The guilt and shame I feel is overwhelming.
“I cannot begin to put into words my remorse.”
Laxton joined the Met Police in 1980 and retired in 2011.
Ms Walton told the court Laxton has had to accept his responsibility in participating in an “appalling trade”.
“He will have to live with that shame not only in this courtroom but thereafter it will be publicised for a period of time,” she said.
A sexual harm prevention order is in place for both defendants for the next 10 years which restricts their access to the internet and their contact with children.