Man jailed over child sex abuse images

The case was heard at York Crown Court
The case was heard at York Crown Court

A former IT manager has been jailed for downloading images of child sex abuse.

Stephen Edwards, 59, from Harrogate, trawled the web for shots whileworking as IT administrator at Malton Foods.

Police raided his former home in the Scarborough area in December 2014 and visited his workplace after illegal downloads had been traced to his computer IP address, York Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Aisha Wadoodi said Edwards, now of The Avenue, Pateley Bridge, had sole responsibility for maintaining the firm’s computer systems at the food-processing factory.

Unbeknown to his bosses, Edwards - who had a personal as well as administrative account on his laptop - had used the former account to download and store illicit images.

Edwards, who lost his job after the offences came to light, had 184 indecent images on his computer equipment which he had downloaded over a four-year period between August 2009 and October 2013.

Ms Wadoodi said that Edwards had started work as IT manager at the food firm in July 2012 and had his own back office where police seized his laptop.

Analysis of the computer showed that Edwards had set up two accounts - an administrative one for access to the firm’s computer systems, and a personal one under his own name, neither of which had been password-protected.

Police found dozens of shots on the laptop which had been stored in files next to desktop folders containing Edwards’ CV and bills, said Ms Wadoodi.

Despite overwhelming evidence, the disgraced IT expert told police he hadn’t downloaded any images of child sex abuse and claimed he had no sexual interest in children.

The case was listed for trial in January, but Edwards pleaded guilty to 11 counts of making or possessing indecent images before a jury was sworn in.

Defence barrister Taryn Turner said Edwards’ fall from grace had “taken a toll not just on his own health but also on his family”.

She said Edwards, who had no previous convictions, was a man with a “great deal of (IT) expertise and technical knowledge”.

Judge Robin Mairs said it was “abundantly clear” that Edwards had an unhealthy interest in pre-teen children, particularly “very-young” girls. He said only an immediate jail sentence would be justified because Edwards continued to deny he had a sexual interest in young children, which meant that any rehabilitative work was not an option as an alternative to prison.

Edwards was jailed for seven months and placed on the sex-offenders’ register for 10 years. Mr Mairs also made a sexual-harm prevention order, which will run indefinitely and restrict Edwards’ internet use.