Ambo's fall from grace
THREE years ago, John Hinder was saving lives and winning bravery awards in his highly respected job as a Queensland Ambulance Service paramedic.
Today he bears the shame of being a convicted child pornography downloader.
It took just two hours for a jury to find the former Bundaberg ambulance officer guilty of possessing child exploitation material and using a carriage service to access child pornography.
Hinder's laptop was found to contain 183 illegal images when police carried out a search of his Urangan home in 2009.
Some were of the "most offensive and outrageous kind", involving pre-pubescent children performing sex acts, bestiality and images of children being held against their will, Hervey Bay District Court was told.
How did this man, who had no previous criminal convictions, plunge from honoured hero to convicted criminal?
One explanation, put forth by Hinder's defence barrister, was that an inquest into the death of one his patients - in which his work was significantly criticised - sent him off the rails.
The inquest was held about a month before Hinder started to download the illegal child pornography images in March 2009.
Hinder worked in Bundaberg as an intensive care paramedic and had been with the QAS since 1994.
Among many awards he received during this time was a bravery award from the Royal Humane Society in 2008.
Following his arrest in July 2009, the 45-year-old paramedic was suspended from the ambulance service without pay.
Hinder could have been jailed for 10 years for his crimes, but yesterday he walked free from court.
Judge Hugh Botting sentenced him to 15 months jail with immediate release and a 12-month wholly suspended sentence.
It was the judge's view that although the enormity of the offences warranted jail terms, they were out of character for Hinder, who had been a "worthwhile" member of society for many years.
It was also unlikely he would reoffend, the judge said, due to the "utter humiliation" he had suffered since his arrest.
Judge Botting told the court it was wrong to class downloading child porn from the internet as a victimless crime.
"Sadly there will be children, either in this country or others, who will be abused so these images can be provided for those who seek them," he said.