Chris Langham freed from jail

LONDON (Reuters) - Chris Langham was released from jail on Wednesday after winning an appeal against the length of his sentence for downloading child pornography.

Chris Langham leaves Maidstone Crown Court during a break for lunch, in south east England, August 2, 2007. Langham was released from jail after winning an appeal on Wednesday against the length of his sentence for downloading child pornography. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The Appeal Court ruled that the 10-month sentence imposed on the Bafta-award winning actor was too long, and reduced it to six months.

Speaking to reporters after his release, the star of BBC’s “The Thick of It” said the court’s acceptance that he had no sexual interest in children had been completely ignored in the reporting of his case.

“To set the record straight -- I never paid to look at the material. I saw a tiny number of images of child abuse which I have always said were distressing, sickening and atrocious.

“I looked because I was writing about the subject of child abuse. My own abuse as a child made it important for me to attempt to address this subject in my writing,” he said.

“I was wrong to do so, but I believe that the price I have been asked to pay is out of all proportion. My life has been ruined, but my conscience is clear.”

The father-of-five had been due for release at the end of December after being jailed at Maidstone Crown Court in September.

In the appeal ruling Dame Heather Steel said that a prison sentence had been inevitable.

Nevertheless, she said that taking Langham’s explanation into account, along with his character, the court was satisfied the sentence could be cut.

Langham’s counsel, David Whitehouse, had argued that Langham was not a paedophile who had downloaded the images for sexual gratification.

“He was writing about child abuse with admirable motives. He was looking at the images to do that the better.”

When asked by Lord Justice Gage why Langham had not pleaded guilty during his trial, Whitehouse said he had wanted the whole matter to be aired in court because he did not want to be treated as a Gary Glitter type of character.

Glitter, an ex-rocker was jailed in Vietnam for three years in 2006 for sexually molesting two young girls, before having his sentence reduced by three months last February.

Langham, 58, had feared for his life during his time at Elmley prison in Kent, newspaper reports had said.

His wife, Christine Cartwright, was reported as saying he had been verbally abused, taunted, and had had missiles thrown at him and his cell flooded by other prisoners.

Reporting by Tim Castle