8:40pm Tuesday 15th January 2013
By Neil Hunter
A DISGRACED businessman was today (Tuesday, January 15) put on the sex offenders' register after being caught with child pornography.
George Steen downloaded and kept on his computers photographs and short video clips of boys and girls being spanked.
The law firm partner, 64, from Darlington, was said by his barrister to have an interest in "fantasy and role-play".
Dan Cordey, mitigating, said the images of children were a tiny proportion of the pornographic pictures recovered.
Mr Cordey said the majority of the several thousand found on the computers involved adults and were not illegal.
Bespectacled Steen was given a two-year community order and was also ordered to go on a sex offender treatment programme.
Judge Gillian Matthews, QC, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, ordered him to sign as a sex offender for five years.
Twice-married Steen – who has links to the Philippines and Thailand – was held at Heathrow Airport as he returned from Bangkok.
As well as the images on the lap-top, more pictures were on two other computers when his Greenbank Road home was searched.
Steen described the photos and videos as "sexy, Page 3 stuff" but said during a trial that none showed anyone under-age.
In a closed court room, the jury saw the pictures – including one which depicts a victim tied to a rack, and covered in bruises.
Judge Matthews told Steen: "The images are unpleasant . . . it is vital you recognise the harm these photographs can do."
Steen was found guilty of nine charges of making indecent images, two of possessing them and one of evading importation duty.
Mr Cordey said: "This is a man who is interested in fantasy-type, role-play images rather than real images.
"Mr Steen has to accept he should have been much more careful. He was playing with fire. He has no proper excuse.
"He is an intelligent enough man to realise what he did was unlawful. He has modified his behaviour and it won't happen again."
Steen said during his trial last month that the websites he downloaded the images from assured customers all the models were adults.
Speaking afterwards, Peter Avery, from Border Force, said: “Steen attempted to evade our controls and bring these images into the country but our officers were one step ahead of him.
“As this case shows our officers work around the clock at ports and airports – and behind the scenes at postal sorting offices – to keep indecent material and other illegal items likes drugs, counterfeit goods and firearms out of the UK.”
In 2003, Steen was arrested by detectives from the Serious Fraud Office who were investigating a worldwide scam which swindled £1.5m out of wealthy victims.
He fled to the Philippines mid-way through his trial at Southwark Crown Court but was convicted in his absence and later deported and jailed for six years.
Steen was part of a gang which defrauded businessmen from around the world by persuading them to part with large up-front fees for phantom loans.
The Darlington conman, the leader of a trio of "ruthless, cynical, greedy fraudsters", led an affluent lifestyle from the proceeds of the sting.
The elaborate con-trick snared victims in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand by offering unbeatable rates on multi-million pound loans.
Hundreds of applications were received for loans ranging between £500,000 and £20m for businesses including hospitals, hotels and golf courses.
The clients, whose commercial ambitions often exceeded their financial acumen, would then fly to the UK to meet the gang in luxury hotels to arrange deals.
One man who lost a fortune hoped to set up restaurants with movie-mogul Steven Spielberg and needed cash to open a chain of outlets in Australia and the Far East.
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