A man who sexually abused a young boy and hoarded almost 3,500 child pornography images has been jailed for ten years.
Dennis Eldridge, 47, was caught out when the victim, who became physically sick with stress, told his parents of the abuse.
The child reported that Eldridge abused him over the course of several years when Eldridge visited his home. He was also abused when his family visited Eldridge’s home. He was less than ten years old at the time of the crimes.
Prosecutor Cindy Clarke said the defendant took advantage of trust placed in him by the child’s family to commit the abuse when he was alone with the boy.
Police raided Eldridge’s Pembroke home when the allegations surfaced and found thousands of photographs and videos of child pornography on his computers. They included images of bestiality and children as young as five years old being raped and forced into sex acts by adults.
Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves viewed some of the images before he sentenced Eldridge and remarked that he had never seen anything like it in his 30-year career.
“This is really awful. This could make you bring up your breakfast,” he told Crown counsel Cindy Clarke, who agreed.
Eldridge, who was employed in the field of computers and technology, also worked as a guitar teacher for the Bermuda School of Music. He pleaded guilty in November to sexually exploiting the victim on five different occasions between January, 2009 and April, 2011. He also admitted to accessing child pornography on 11 different occasions. The prosecution chose to charge him with specimen charges rather than for every incident of abuse and every pornographic image.
Ms Clarke explained that 3,375 pornographic pictures and 92 video files were found on Eldridge’s home computers. She explained that in law, such images are categorised on a scale of one to five, with five being the most serious.
More than 3,000 of the images were level one. However, 176 of them were level four and one movie clip, involving a young girl and images of bestiality, was a category five.
Ms Clarke read a statement from the mother of the child describing the “shock, anger and confusion” she felt when she found out about the abuse. Both the mother and victim needed counselling to cope with what happened.
Ms Clarke also read from a pre-sentence report prepared on Eldridge. In it, he explained that he suffered from depression and had been accessing child pornography on a daily basis at the time of the offences.
He said that after he had done so, he struggled with feelings of shame and guilt.
The report also stated: “Mr Eldridge expressed being thankful that he was arrested for these offences because he was on the path towards committing a more serious sexual assault against the child.”
Lawyer Simon Payne said the defendant had been sexually molested himself throughout his childhood and teenage years. He is deemed to be at a moderate to high risk of reoffending if he does not get treatment.
Eldridge declined an invitation to address the court.
Sentencing Eldridge, Mr Justice Greaves ordered him to participate in a sex offender treatment programme. He said he committed a “serious breach of trust” against the victim and his family.
He added that there were no mitigating factors in the case apart from the misery Eldridge suffered from being abused himself as a child, which meant he was getting a lighter sentence than he would otherwise.
At the request of this newspaper, the judge lifted a reporting ban that had previously been imposed by the Chief Justice on identifying Eldridge.
Mr Payne had requested the ban to protect the victim, who cannot be identified as a matter of law.
The judge said: “This case really has to be published in full.”