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Man obsessed with child pornography jailed

A fifty eight year old man who admitted possessing hundreds of thousands of indecent images of children with intent to distribute has been sent to jail for more than four years.

Stephen Bell of Sandside Road, Mossbank, was also handed an additional non custodial sentence of four years, placed on the sex offender register for an indefinite period of time, and placed under a sexual offences prevention order which will closely monitor his use of the internet.

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Bell appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Friday for sentencing after having pled guilty to the charges during a hearing last month.

The offences took place over a five-year period between 1 February 2011 and 1 February 2016 at his home address and elsewhere.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie described Bell as a man whose life had over time been taken over by obtaining child pornography.

When police officers raided Bell’s house in February last year they recovered numerous computers, recording devices and 35 hard drives with indecent images of children.

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The Crown took the decision to fully interrogate just six of the hard drives, while the remaining 29 devices, which also contained indecent images of children, were previewed.

The forensically examined hard drives revealed more than 100,000 indecent images of children, of which 5,300 were of the most serious category.

Officers also found almost 900 movies of child pornography stored on the devices.

The fiscal said: “He worked full time, but it appears that once work was completed, his life revolved almost exclusively around obtaining these horrific images.”

He said that he was concerned that Bell seemed to be incapable of appreciating the seriousness of his crime, and added: “Every single image here contains the image of a victim.”

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Representing Bell, defence solicitor Tommy Allan described his client as a “loner” who had allowed his obsession to take over his life.

“He seemed to have spent the majority of his life collecting these images without any chance of ever looking at them,” the solicitor said.

“It went out of control, and it was inevitable that at some point it would be discovered.”

Bell had fully cooperated in the investigation by the means of an early plea, Allan continued and added that his client had also indicated his willingness to get to the root of his offending.

Imprisoning Bell for four years and four months, sheriff Philip Mann told him that his offending was of the most serious nature, had taken place over a considerable period of time and was further compounded by his “difficulty in recognising the wrong” he had done.

He said Bell was a serious risk to the public, and “this public are children”.

Every image contributes to the abuse of children. You are creating a market and a reason for other people to make these images and thereby abuse children,” he said.

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Bell was then handcuffed and taken to the cells at Lerwick police station before flown to prison on the mainland.

In a short statement issued on Friday afternoon, senior investigative officer detective inspector Richard Baird said Police Scotland was committed to taking action against people involved in this cycle of crime.

“This was an extremely complex investigation and Bell’s system has been described as one of the most intricate ever seen by the specialist computer forensic examiners who worked on the case,” he said.

“Possessing indecent images is not a victimless crime and every day children are subjected to dreadful abuse in order to create these materials which are distributed around the world.”

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