21 December 2016
A County Down man is today the first person in Northern Ireland to be sentenced for possessing guides on grooming and abusing children under UK legislation introduced under the Serious Crime Act in May 2015.
Gary Carruthers, aged 35, from Holywood, worked as a cleaner in a local primary school. He possessed two manuals, one of which was 170 pages long.
The Judge at Newry Crown Court described the content in the manuels as "utterly shocking, vile and horrendous".
Forensic examination of his computers showed Carruthers had over 28,000 indecent images of children classified from grades one to five (with five being the highest).
The court heard Carruthers was in possession of personal details and photographs of pupils at the school. He has not been charged with any contact abuse offences.
Carruthers was arrested as part of the joint PSNI/NCA Operation Jarra, an investigation into accessing indecent images of children online, and has been held on remand since October 2015.
He was given a three-year sentence, one year custodial and two on licence, and a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order which prohibits him from being around children and restricts his internet activity.
Sentencing, judge Sandra Crawford said she had taken into account aggravating factors such as the abuse of trust placed in him as a schoolcaretaker and his removal of children's personal information from the school.
NCA Branch Commander Rob Burgess said: “Child sex abuse is an appalling crime and this case was particularly harrowing due to the evidence of the manuals.
“The NCA, together with its partners in the PSNI, will continue to work to safeguard and protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation and ensure those who seek to harm them are identified and held to account. ”
Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, Head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Unit, said: “It is important we send out a clear message to those who exploit children online.
“You leave a digital footprint when you are downloading, viewing, making indecent images of children and the PSNI, together with our colleagues in NCA, have the capacity, capability and determination to investigate these despicable crimes against children and bring offenders to justice.”
If you have concerns about a child or young person, or if you are a child or young person and someone has asked you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable either on or offline, tell police or a trusted adult. You can ring the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency. You can also report it through the CEOP safety centre at www.ceop.police.uk
If you receive any inappropriate images or links, it is important that you do not forward them to anyone else. Contact police or tell a trusted adult immediately. By doing this you could help prevent further incidents.
The NCA’s CEOP command's Thinkuknow programme provides information for children, young people, parents and carers about staying safe online and preventing sexual abuse and exploitation. Parents and carers can visit Thinkuknow for advice on keeping their children safe. www.ThinkuKnow.co.uk.
If you are a child and you want to speak to someone in confidence about any issue that is upsetting you, you can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit the Childline website to chat to a counsellor in confidence.
If you need help in an emergency, you should call police on 999.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a registered child protection charity dedicated to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. It works with entire families affected by sexual abuse, including adult male and female sexual abusers, young people with inappropriate sexual behaviours, victims of abuse, and other family members.
More information for adults concerned about their own behaviour, or that of someone they know, is available from Stopitnow.
More information for parents is available from ParentsProtect.