An Aberdeen pervert has avoided jail after being caught with vile videos and pictures involving young children.
Specialist police officers from the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the Forensic Computing Department swooped on Anthony McHardie’s home and examined a laptop, an external hard drive, and a mobile phone.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard 15 videos, with a total playtime of 14 minutes and 13 seconds, were discovered within Skype files on the 43-year-old’s laptop, along with dozens of still images on the other devices.
Fiscal depute Colin Neilson told the court: “On November 22 2019 a search warrant was granted in respect of the locus, where the accused lived along with a lodger.
“Officers from the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the Forensic Computing Department of the Police Service of Scotland attended at the locus to execute the warrant on November 28.
“They were permitted entry by the accused.
“On request to identify his electronic devices, he pointed out a laptop computer.
“A preliminary examination of it revealed that it contained indecent images of children.
“The accused was arrested and taken into police custody.
“He had a private consultation with a solicitor before providing a ‘no comment’ interview.
“At the conclusion of the interview the accused was charged with both making and possessing indecent images of children.
“Three devices attributable to the accused as owner and user were, following forensic examination, found to contain indecent images of children.”
On the laptop 15 videos were discovered of girls estimated to be aged between one and 12, with a total play length of 14 minutes and 13 seconds.
Of these, 13 videos were classed as category A, the most serious, while the remaining two were deemed to be in category B.
An examination of McHardie’s internet search history revealed he had looked up sickening terminology associated with child pornography.
On the external hard drive six still images were discovered showing girls estimated to be between 10 and 12 years of age. These were rated as category C, the least serious.
And on the mobile phone 74 images were found of girls aged between 10 and 15. Of these, 69 were classed as category C, three category B and two category A.
McHardie pled guilty to taking, permitting to be taken or making indecent images of pseudo-images of children between November 10 2014 and December 31 2017, and to possession of indecent images of pseudo-images of children between August 30 2016 and November 28 2019.
Defence agent Gail Goodfellow said: “He appears with no previous convictions.
“His explanation for becoming involved in this sort of offending is narrated in the social work report.
“His mental health was very poor following the breakdown of his marriage and the stress of work.
“He began drinking too much and an interest in adult material led to him becoming involved in group chats where he was exposed to this sort of unlawful material and his involvement progressed from there.”
Mrs Goodfellow emphasises that although the period of the libel spanned several years, his conduct was limited to three separate occasions within that period.
She went on: “It can be said he was previously of good character. He has accepted responsibility.
“He has shown what appears to be genuine remorse. He expressed regret and was not only upset by his actions but, in his own words, horrified himself.
“After his arrest he contacted and started working with the organisation Stop It Now. He has taken steps to address his offending behaviour.”
Sheriff William Summers told McHardie, of Donbank Terrace, Aberdeen: “These are not victimless crimes. Every child who appears in any such image is likely to have been the subject of abuse.
“Those who view such images, people like you, perpetuate the vile trade of such images.”
The sheriff said he took account of McHardie’s lack of record, and his remorse and steps taken to address his “addiction”.
He ordered McHardie to be supervised for three years and to complete the Moving Forward, Making Changes programme.
Sheriff Summers also ordered him to complete 300 hours of unpaid work and said any device he owned capable of accessing the internet must be registered with the offender management unit, be able to retain its history, and be made available for inspection upon request.
Finally Sheriff Summers made McHardie subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act for three years.
An NSPCC Scotland spokesperson said: “More and more children are abused because of the actions of offenders like McHardie who create a demand for this type of material in an awful online industry.
“NSPCC Scotland works to prevent abuse and is campaigning for internet companies to do far more to prevent indecent images from appearing online in the first place.”
Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, while Childline is there for young people on 0800 1111 or via www.childline.org.uk