A SEX offender who deliberately disabled his internet device so it did not record his browsing history wept and thanked a judge as he was spared from jail.

Imposing a three-year community order on former Carlisle man Christopher Topliss, 35, Judge Michael Fanning said the sentence's focus on rehabilitation would offer better protection to the public than a short jail term.

During an earlier hearing at Carlisle Crown Court, Topliss, now living at Cleator Moor, admitted three offences – one involving the use of a device which had its internet history recording function disabled and two counts of using and then deleting private online browser applications.

Prosecutor Andrew Evans outlined how the offending came to light when police officers made an unannounced visit to his home on June 15.  His illegal online activity was revealed when the officers examined his iPhone.

The sexual harm prevention order he flouted was imposed in February 2017 when Topliss, of Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor, was jailed for child sex offences.

That earlier offence involved him using online gaming networks to groom children.

He was brought to justice after an investigation by the National Crime Agency's Cyber Crime Unit, which uncovered how he started online relationships with several girls aged under sixteen. In one case, he travelled to abuse his victim.

Marion Weir, defending, said the defendant accepted that it was his responsibility to comply with his sexual harm prevention order.

If there had been any confusion over how to comply with that order, said the barrister, he should have raised this with the police. But over the last few months, Topliss had worked with a health and well-being coach.

 “The applications were deleted but there were no underlying offences,” said Miss Weirl.

After spending approximately 18 months in custody, for the original offence, Topliss was released but then rearrested on Christmas Eve, 2019, after he was given a lie detector test but he was not charged with offences.

While in custody, Topliss had experienced the suicide of a fellow inmate and his mental health had suffered.

Judge Michael Fanning noted that the defendant’s original offending had begun with him using the internet to contact and groom a 15-year-old girl, before later meeting the child and committing a further sex offence.

Referring to Topliss’s most recent internet use and decision to delete the browsers he had used, Judge Fanning said: “The whole purpose of the prohibition is so that police can look to see whether you are seeking to contact young women, or girls, with a view to further sexual offending.

“Simply put, we will know what you have been looking at.”

Topliss had deliberately breached his sexual harm prevention order. If jailed, Topliss would be looking at a sentence of 13 months, and so be released at the half way point of that sentence on licence.

Judge Fanning said he was not optimistic, given the defendant’s previous behaviour, that he would comply with his licence conditions.

The best way to safeguard the public, said the judge, was to let Topliss complete a three year programme of work with the Probation Service, which will include an accredited sex offender treatment course and 15 rehabilitation activity days.

Judge Fanning noted that Topliss had lived an isolated and lonely existence and here had been concerns for his welfare and previous suicide attempts. The charity's confidential helpline is 0808 1000 900.

“The author of his report has real concerns for your welfare; this order may assist you and minimise the risk to the public.”

As he left the dock of the court, Topliss, whose father was in the public gallery for the hearing, said: “Thank you for your mercy, Your Honour.”

For those concerned about about their own thoughts and behaviour, confidential help is available from the Stop It Now Campaign.