A DISGRACED former Methodist minister found with child abuse images on his computer thanked a judge for sparing him a jail term today (Wednesday, July 23).

Kenneth Mankin, a retired minister, circuit superintendent and chairman of the North-East Wesley Historical Society who was also involved with the Boys’ Brigade and Scouts, pleaded guilty to seven charges of making indecent photographs of a child – including some at the second highest level of severity.

At Peterlee Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Christine Harrison gave the 74-year-old a suspended prison sentence.

Leaving court as a free man, he said: “Thank you.”

Mankin’s home, on Richmond Road, Newton Hall, Durham City, was raided by police on April 18, 2011, after a tip-off.

Officers found 15 indecent images – six at level one, four at level two and five at level four. Level five is the most serious.

Most of the images featured teenage boys aged 15 or 16, the court heard.

Judge Harrison said Mankin had previously lived an “exemplary life” and there was no evidence of anything the matter with the way he had conducted himself within the church, Boys’ Brigade or Scouts.

“All the references lead me to believe Mr Mankin has conducted himself entirely properly during his ministry and the various works he’s done with children,” she said.

Mankin’s interest in indecent images was triggered by something last year, although it may have always been there because of issues he had suffered as a young person, the judge continued.

Michelle Gallagher, mitigating, asked that a pre-sentence report prepared on Mankin be taken into account.

For each offence, Mankin was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 24 months – during which time he will be supervised. Judge Harrison ordered that the sentences should run concurrently.

Mankin was also made subject to a sexual offences prevention order for five years and will be on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.

He must also pay £85 court costs.

Daniel Jones, safeguarding co-ordinator for the Methodist Church’s Newcastle and Darlington districts, said Mankin was suspended from all office holding positions in the church when he was arrested on November 23 and a further review would take place now criminal proceedings are over.

A safeguarding team is offering pastoral support to those affected, he added.