A HELICOPTER engineer who downloaded child pornography at his RAF base walked free from court yesterday as a judge asked defence chiefs not to kick him out of the service.

Simon Radcliffe, 26, was also caught trying to groom what he thought was a teenage girl over the Internet as he sat at his laptop in barracks at RAF Benson. The ‘girl’, going by the name of Chloe, turned out to be a police officer.

Yesterday, Radcliffe was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court to three years’ supervision and ordered to go on a sex offenders’ course after admitting a string of sex offences. Judge Christopher Compston asked the RAF not to discharge him because he could still be of service to his country.

Judge Compston believed being discharged could lead to him re-offending.

He told Radcliffe: “Can I make it clear that the harm this behaviour does to people is quite incalculable.

“However, I’m reasonably satisfied that you were lonely and under strain at the time. I hope the RAF keeps you on because it seems you have a lot to give them and they have a lot to give you.

“If you are discharged I believe this crime could be repeated because you won’t have the protection it gives you.”

Radcliffe had previously admitted two counts of inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity, three counts of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a girl aged 13 to 15, and one count of making indecent photographs of a child.

Jonathan Stone, prosecuting, said: “Operation Starlight was a proactive, covert operation by the Metropolitan Police.

“The communication between Mr Radcliffe and ‘Chloe’ took place on the Chat Avenue website and MSN Messenger over three days from August 24 last year.

“The officer, who was using a picture of a young girl sucking a lollipop, was approached by a man called Simon. The interaction was very sexually explicit.”

Mr Stone said Radcliffe encouraged ‘Chloe’ to commit a sexual act and he showed himself on webcam also carrying out a sexual act.

He added: “There were also suggestions of meeting at a hotel, but that was never acted upon.”

Mr Stone added police later confiscated Radcliffe’s computer and found three pictures of child pornography, one ranked at level three and two at level four. The worst category is level five.

Lucy Tapper, defending, said Radcliffe had an “exemplary” service record.

She said: “My client has thought about the consequences of his actions and he has absolute conviction this will never happen again.

“That is easier said than done, but he fully accepts that help will be necessary.

“My client would be a great loss to the armed services.”

Radcliffe must also sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years, pay £500 costs, and his laptop will be destroyed.

Radcliffe has already served on overseas tours and is expected to go to Afghanistan in the near future, Judge Compston was told.

Last night, the Ministry of Defence said it was considering the court’s findings.


THIS is not the first time Judge Christopher Compston has hoped employers would give criminals a second chance. In August, he said sending Regina Hutchinson – who swindled Oxford City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions out of £60,365 over more than 10 years – to prison would cost the taxpayers too much and by staying employed she would be able to pay the money back.