THE dilly-dallying of police has been slammed by a top judge after a paedophile walked free due to an inexplicable delay.

Riccardo Gargiulo, of Orford, has been given a THIRD chance, having been spared jail twice before – including after he was caught with almost three million depraved images of child sex abuse.

The 55-year-old has again been caught possessing such vile images, and he also engaged in sex chats under an online pseudonym without informing the authorities, which he is banned from doing.

Despite police knowing about all this, there was an unexplained 17-month delay before the case was presented for the defendant to be charged – meaning a judge felt a suspended sentence was appropriate punishment.

Gargiulo appeared before Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday to be sentenced on charges of possessing indecent images of children and two counts of making them.

He also breached his sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) and his sex offender registry requirements, with both having been imposed on him for previous relevant offending.

Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, explained how in November 2021, Cheshire Police received intelligence from the National Crime Agency linked to the defendant’s home address in Warrington.

A warrant was executed on April 5, 2022, and during a search of the property, officers seized 12 electronic devices, which were sent away for analysis.

A report was produced on September 24 that year detailing how 11 of the devices did not contain any incriminating material.

However, a black Asus Nexus tablet computer was found to contain 15 indecent images of children.

Three of them, showing girls aged between 11 and 14, were graded as category A – the most severe grading involving child rape.

The remaining 12 were judged to be category C, but these involved girls as young as 10 years of age.

Gargiulo has two previous convictions for seven offences, the first of which saw him sentenced to 10 months in prison suspended for two years in September 2018.

This came after he was caught with nearly three million indecent images of children as part of an ‘extensive’ collection, involving children aged as young as nine and amassed over a period of five years.

Police had previously raided his home in August 2017, with a laptop and hard drives seized from the property.

Officers were unable to analyse all of the 2.9million images found due to the sheer number, and instead looked at a sample.

Gargiulo, described as an ‘isolated and lonely man’, had also bookmarked a Russian website ‘well-known’ for containing indecent images of children on his internet browser.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offender register for 10 years and abide by the terms of a SHPO for the same period of time.

Riccardo Gargiulo leaving Liverpool Crown Court with a suspended sentence

Riccardo Gargiulo leaving Liverpool Crown Court with a suspended sentence

The defendant breached his SHPO and was handed unpaid work in July 2019 due to the IT technician deleting the internet search history on his mobile phone, which was prohibited.

Further analysis of the Asus tablet seized during the latest raid found that he had breached a SHPO prohibition by activating software stopping the device from retaining or displaying his internet usage.

The court heard he was engaging in sexualised conversations on the instant messaging platform Wickr, which allows users to send messages, media and files with end-to-end encryption.

Gargiulo was using a profile with the username FamilyGuy02020 to chat with someone with the username DirtyUncle66.

Images were sent during the discussions of underage children of an explicit nature, but this was by the other user and not the defendant, hence why he does not face any charges of distributing such vile images.

However, he was charged with breaching the terms of his sex offender registration as he did not inform the police of his FamilyGuy username.

The defendant was arrested by police on October 20, 2022, and interviewed, where he denied knowing the tablet contained indecent images of children.

He also denied looking for them via the internet, claiming he was aroused instead by the sexualised chats on Wickr, with a particular interest in six-year-old girls.

Gargiulo admitted to using Wickr because it did not retain his history, and said he knew this would place him in breach of his requirements.

Addressing the charges, Mr Blasbery said that the defendant ‘clearly, deliberately’ failed to comply with his requirements, which demonstrated a ‘serious and persistent breach’.

The issue of the long delay in the case was raised by judge David Aubrey, with Mr Blasbery confirming that no explanation had been given by Cheshire Police as to why it took 17 months for the case to be provided to the Crown Prosecution Service to authorise charges.

The CPS gave authorisation in February this year – the same month it received the file from Cheshire Police – with the case coming before Warrington Magistrates’ Court in May and Liverpool Crown Court for sentence on Tuesday.

Mitigating on behalf of Gargiulo, Eve Salter, defending, highlighted how her client pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and has been attending therapy sessions with the Lucy Faithful Foundation since his arrest in a bid to prevent future offending.

These sessions have been of his own volition and are continuing as he believes they help, while he told the court he no longer uses social media and only uses the internet to look for jobs.

“He says he could not make friends in real life and turned to dark corners of the internet. He fully accepts what he has done and recognises there are real victims of his crimes,” she said.

Before sentencing, judge David Aubrey said: “You are assessed as being sexually deviant. You have an unhealthy interest in young children for your own sexual gratification.

Liverpool Crown Court

Liverpool Crown Court

“Any image you have been in possession of, or made or downloaded, represents the abuse of a young child.

“They are all victims. They are exploited, and by doing that what you have been doing, you are perpetuating abuse of such vulnerable children.”

He added: “It would be extremely easy to find that an immediate custodial sentence is the only appropriate punishment that can be imposed upon you.

“I pause as there is one matter that has made me reflect. That is the date of the offence and what has happened since.

“This court has received no explanation whatsoever as to the delay between September 2022 and February 2024. It is not as a result of the defendant’s tardiness whatsoever.”

Concluding, he said: “I make it abundantly clear that, if I were to sentence you shortly after your arrest in April 2022, this court would have had no hesitation whatsoever in concluding appropriate punishment can only be achieved by way of immediate custody.

“In consequence of the antiquity of the offences and the delay without question from April 2022 to February 2024, coupled with the progress you have made, the court has come to the conclusion that the public and children are best protected by suspending what would otherwise be an immediate prison sentence.”

Gargiulo, of Watkin Street in Orford, was sentenced to 14 months in prison suspended for two years,

He must also undertake 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days, including the Horizon sex offender treatment programme.

In addition, his SHPO will continue to run until its 2028 expiry date, with fresh sex offender register requirements imposed for the next 10 years.

Judge Aubrey added: “You have an opportunity to continue to seek to rehabilitate yourself. If you fail, there will be but one sentence and only one sentence available, and that is a sentence of immediate imprisonment.

“I repeat, had it not been for the delay, the sentence would have been such you would be going with the dock officer.”

The Warrington Guardian approached Cheshire Police for a statement following the hearing, which was provided by DS Carlos Brunés, the force’s head of serious organised crime.

He said: “We acknowledge that there were a number of delays in this case, however, throughout the investigation, the appropriate safeguarding measures were put in place to mitigate any risk caused by the defendant.

“At the time the case initially came to light, there were a number of vacancies within the Sex Offender Management Unit (SOMU), which resulted in a high workload for the team.

“In addition, other possible offences were identified during the investigation, which resulted in Gargiulo having to be rearrested and interviewed, which caused further delays.

“We would like to reassure residents that over the past two years, we have invested considerably in technology and resources in order to keep pace with the changing demand and complexity of managing sex offenders.

“This has included a 70 per cent increase in the number of staff in the SOMU, along with significant changes to our processes to help reduce our backlog and ensure that delays such as this do not happen in the future.”