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Former election candidate spared prison due to ill health

Former election candidate spared prison due to ill health

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Former election candidate spared prison due to ill health

Tuesday 18 October 2022


A 63-year-old man has been handed a suspended prison sentence after being convicted of six counts of possession of indecent images of children.

John Semenowicz, who was previously a lecturer at the College of Further Education, was also given a sex offenders’ notification order and a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO), both to run for five years.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges when the case was first heard in the courts. He was found guilty on all counts in a Royal Court trial in April. 

Semenowicz was due to be sentenced in July, but after catching covid proceedings were delayed until yesterday. 

There were 146 indecent images and video, 109 of which were category A, on devices belonging to him which he claimed to have inadvertently come across in films downloaded from a peer-to-peer sharing software to his home computer before 2010.

He copied the material onto separate hard drives, categorising them into individual files, but did not delete them. 

Royal_court_2.jpg

Pictured: Semenowicz was sentenced in Guernsey's Royal Court. 

Crown Advocate Chris Dunford, prosecuting, did not repeat the facts to the court as “media sighting” had already detailed the case circumstances. 

He said a SOPO was being sought as the trial and social inquiry report concluded that Semenowicz poses a threat of sexual harm to children in general.

Whether Semenowicz had a sexual interest in children was not part of the charges laid against him.

Advocate Dunford argued that Semenowicz had damaged his credibility throughout proceedings. He was reported to have said: “You’re not going to find images of children anywhere”, during the trial which was untrue. 

Semenowicz also unsuccessfully attempted to claim that a folder on an external hard drive, which contained the most serious material entitled ‘FAV’, was an abbreviation of ‘Films, Animations and Videos’. 

He later accepted that there were no animations in the folder, and the court rejected the explanation as false. 

Advocate Sara Mallett, defending, reiterated her clients “impeccable previous character”, and the fact he had not sought out or distributed the material –only categorising it “to dispose of eventually”.  

She said whilst Semenowicz had misplaced some of material, he offered everything to prosecutors after his conviction and was “ashamed” and “embarrassed”.

There was “no question” Semenowicz was suffering from advancing Parkinson’s disease which, coupled with unassociated heart issues, rendered him “not physically or psychologically well”, according to Advocate Mallett. 

John Semenowicz

Pictured: John Semenowicz. 

His family were noted as being supportive despite a torrent of online abuse after the conviction which generated anxiety for the defendant. His emotional and financial support to Ukrainian family was also mentioned by the defense, saying the war had a “negative impact on him”. 

She asked the court to “find exceptional circumstances” to not impose an immediate custodial sentence and argued against imposing a SOPO due to probation’s assessment that Semenowicz presented a low likelihood of reoffending. 

Judge Russell Finch, sentencing, highlighted that “all categories of indecent images were found. 146 in all and 109 of the worst type… some apparently as young as three-years-old”. 

He accepted Semenowiczs’ previous good character and the fact the images were not deliberately sought or distributed but could not ignore most of the material was “of the worst kind”. 

However, the defendant’s poor physical health was viewed as a significant mitigating factor: “The evidence for your Parkinson’s disease is clear… an incurable progressive medical condition”, Judge Finch said.

Semenowicz was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, for each count to run concurrently. 

Judge Finch added that the sentencing decisions of the court in his case would not set "a precedent for anything".

The forfeiture of the offending devices was also ordered before the conditions of the five-year notification order and SOPO were read out. 

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