A retired BBC producer gasped in shock as he avoided jail due to his ‘poor health’ despite being found with more than 800 indecent images of children.
Victor Melleney, 76, stored 832 indecent images of children across his laptop, desktop, two hard drives and a WIFI dongle between May 2011 and October 2018.
Melleney, who worked on top shows including Question Time and Panorama, admitted he was addicted to legal pornography, but said he had no interest in indecent images of children, Kingston Crown Court heard.
When he was arrested at his west London home in 2018, National Crime Agency officers found 612 of the 832 images on a hard drive, but Melleney insisted he had no idea how the illegal material got there.
The officers also found illegal stun guns belonging to Melleney, and he admitted four charges of possession of prohibited weapons for discharge of noxious gas, namely three Tasers and CS gas spray, at an earlier hearing.
Last month, a jury found Melleney, of Holland Park, guilty of possessing indecent photographs of children. They found him not guilty on three other counts.
On Friday, Judge Simon Bryan QC handed Melleney a 20-month prison sentence for the image offence and two months for the gun offences, suspended for two years due to his poor health and recent heart attack.
Sentencing, the judge told Melleney that a prison sentence would be ‘particularly challenging’ because of to his poor health and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Victor Melleney (pictured), 76, stored 832 indecent images of children across his laptop, desktop, two hard drives and a WIFI dongle between May 2011 and October 2018
Judge Bryan said: ‘You are 76 years old, of poor health due to a heart condition. You had a heart attack and were intensive care for a period.
‘A prison sentence would be particularly challenging. I must bear in mind the Covid-19 pandemic and the prison conditions of what would be a relatively short custodial term.
‘I bear in mind there has been a considerable impact on your friends and family. You will have to live with the disgrace and ignominy that you have brought on yourself.’
Melleney must also go to a rehabilitation activity requirement of 40 days and be on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture and deferred destruction of his devices, as they will form part of the child protection Bichard Inquiry.
When Melleney was arrested at his home in Kensington at 7am on October 15, 2018, he was wearing a dressing gown and the most ‘damning evidence’ came from a portable silver hard-drive later found in one of the pockets.
Kingston Crown Court heard 612 of the total 832 images were found on the drive but Melleney insisted he had no idea how the illegal material got there.
Melleney (pictured), who worked on top shows including Panorama, admitted he was addicted to legal pornography, but said he had no interest in indecent images of children
After eight hours and 38 minutes, the jury last month found Melleney guilty of possessing indecent photographs of children.
They found him not guilty on three other counts: making indecent photographs of children, possessing an extreme pornographic image and possessing a prohibited image.
Twice-married Melleney earlier admitted four charges of possession of prohibited weapons for discharge of noxious gas, namely three tasers and CS gas spray. The weapons were found during the NCA raid.
Kieran Vaughan QC, in mitigation for Melleney, claimed he was convicted of the ‘less serious offence’ as presented to the jury, said he was medically vulnerable and that he worked for 30 years with an ‘unblemished record with the BBC’.
He also claimed that Melleney, who wore a suit and tie in the dock, has not viewed any pornography since his arrest.
He said: ‘He is of 76 years of age and of good character until these proceedings.
‘It is not an exaggeration as a consequence of these proceedings he has lost everything dear to him.
‘His life has been decimated as a consequence of it. His wife has left him. His eldest daughter does not speak to him at all. His youngest daughter has very little meaningful contact with him.’
He added: ‘He is a lonely man living alone as a consequence of these proceedings. His life is completely unrecognisable now compared to what it was when he was arrested in 2018.
‘His fall from grace from where he previously stood has been seismic.’
The judge responded: ‘You might say he only has himself to blame.’
Judge Simon Bryan QC handed Melleney (pictured) a 20-month jail sentence for the image offence and two months for the gun offences, suspended for two years due to his poor health
Melleney previously told the court that his porn addiction began after he retired from working with the BBC in 1996/1997 while his children were at school.
‘In the evenings if my wife was out of the country and I was alone it was something interesting to do.’
But he denied ever having any interest in indecent images of children.
‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘No, no sexual interest in children at all. Horrible.’
The court was told the digital content was discovered when NCA officers found two IP addresses had received indecent images of children during 2018.
Melleney was identified as the subscriber to those two IP addresses, in the boroughs of Kensington and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Jurors were told how peer to peer (P2P) technology, which facilitates file sharing, was used to download the content.
One such example of P2P technology found on Melleney’s devices was an application called ‘Vuze’.
Vuze had been installed on a Mac Pro desktop as well as a MacBook laptop and across both devices contained file names ‘indicative of child sexual abuse exploitation’.
An officer searched for the term ‘PTHC’, which stands for ‘pre-teen hard core’, and found more than 40 items. Other file names were read out in court: ‘Preteen young’, ‘underage sex’, ‘pedo’.
The prosecutor also named search terms found in Melleney’s Vuze history: ’11yo PTHC’, ‘PTHC’ and ‘pre-teen’.
Melleney previously told Kingston Crown Court (pictured) that his porn addiction began after he retired from working with the BBC in 1996/1997 while his children were at school
Melleney explained that one of the side effects of his addiction to viewing pornography was a corresponding addiction to downloading it.
He said he would simply click a ‘select all’ button on applications like Vuze, which he used to search for and download material, and simply ‘download the lot’.
On Friday, Ruona Iguyovwe, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the distribution of such images as an ‘utterly sickening practice’.
She added: ‘Victor Melleney knew he was in possession of indecent images of children.
‘The search history of devices recovered during searches of Melleney’s home revealed downloads of images depicting sexual activity involving children.
‘Examination of the electronic devices also revealed software which can be used by users in sharing indecent images of children.
‘The hard drives, recovered from his home, his basement, and hidden in the pocket of a dressing gown he was wearing when he was arrested, contained sickening videos, part of a collection downloaded over years.
‘The sexual exploitation of children and the distribution of images like this is an utterly sickening practice and one which the CPS and its partners will continue to work to root out.’
According to IMDb, an online database of information relating to films and TV programs, Melleney has directed episodes for BBC current affairs programmes dating back to 1980, including Nationwide, Panorama and Question Time.