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British child-porn convict ordered to pay victim

A federal judge ordered a Briton convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography to pay about $200,000 in restitution to a woman who was photographed being sexually abused when she was a child.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2009 09:52 IST

A federal judge on Monday ordered a Briton convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography to pay about $200,000 in restitution to a woman who was photographed being sexually abused when she was a child.

Senior US District Judge Warren W Eginton said his ruling was the first in a criminal case in which someone convicted of possessing illegal images, but not creating them, is required to pay restitution.

"We're dealing with a frontier here," Eginton said, but he said judges have discretion with criminal restitution orders. The case involves Alan Hesketh, a British citizen who was sentenced in October to 78 months in prison for possessing and distributing nearly 2,000 photographs of child pornography. The resident of Stonington, Connecticut, was a vice president of New York-based Pfizer Inc., the world's biggest drugmaker. Pictures of the victim as a child being subjected to sexual abuse turned up in Hesketh's collection, according to prosecutors. "There is a feeling of revulsion about this type of conduct," the judge said.

Hesketh's attorney, Jonathan Einhorn, said he would appeal the restitution order, calling it unreasonable and predicting it would lead to similar claims by other child pornography victims. He said his client had no contact with the woman and argued that defendants should pay restitution only to victims whose injuries they directly caused.

Einhorn said people in other cases who participated in creating pornography have been ordered to pay less restitution than his client.

The woman's attorney, James Marsh, said there is no distinction between Hesketh and people who produce the pornography. "The victim is a victim of sexual exploitation caused by this defendant," Marsh said.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he hopes the ruling leads to more restitution orders and that they serve as deterrents to child pornography.

"We think this is a terrific precedent," Allen said. "The photos stay out there forever. Every time they are downloaded, every time they are distributed, the victim in that image is revictimized."

Authorities said that from June 2006 to May 2007, Hesketh used the Internet to exchange hundreds of images of child pornography and to engage in online "chats" about the sexual molestation of children. Prosecutors said many of the images showed minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults and with other minors. Hesketh was arrested in March 2008 and was fired from his job in New London as a Pfizer vice president and global patent director. Prosecutors said they submitted images in the case to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has a database to help authorities identify victims.

Prosecutors then notified the woman, now 19. She said she was 8 or 9 when she was subjected to sexual abuse by a relative for the purpose of producing child pornography that was requested by a pedophile in another state, according to court papers filed by prosecutors.

Marsh said he did not believe the ruling would necessarily lead to a flood of new claims. Victims are often reluctant to come forward or do not have the ability or awareness to pursue cases, he said.

Asked how his client is doing, he said, "She has a long road ahead of her."