A MAN with more than 8,500 illegal images of child abuse on his computer was caught out – by a burglar.
An unknown burglar broke into David Pethig’s home and stole his laptop.
Police then received an anonymous tip-off, presumably from the burglar, telling officers what he had found on the stolen computer.
He arranged to leave it at an unoccupied house in Wrexham and when officers went to the location they found the laptop and disks in a black bin bag.
When it and another computer seized from Pethig’s home were examined, more than 8,500 still images and more than 400 movie images were found – including some of the worst kind imaginable, involving very young children.
Pethig, 56, of Brandy Brook, Johnstown, near Wrexham, admitted 17 charges of making indecent images and two of possessing indecent images and video but escaped an immediate prison sentence at Mold Crown Court.
The court heard that Pethig had lost everything as a result of the prosecution.
He had lost his job, he had no friends, his family was in turmoil and one had attempted suicide; and he had to move when his neighbours found out what he had been up to.
The effect of the case on him, together with his immediate guilty pleas, were among the reasons given by Judge Gareth Jones for suspending the prison sentence.
Pethig was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He was placed on supervision for two years and sent on a sex offender group work programme run by the probation service. He was ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for the next 10 years. The judge also made a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) limiting his use of the internet in future. He must also pay £500 prosecution costs.
Judge Jones said these were extremely serious offences which were sustained over a significant period of time, showing “a sustained interest by you in material of this kind”.
The nature of the images involving young children showed acts of indecency and degradation.
The judge said Pethig may not have abused or degraded children personally, but indirectly that was what was being done on his behalf.
He had no previous convictions, he had admitted what he had done immediately and the judge said he was aware of the devastating effect the case had upon him.
Emmalyne Downing, prosecuting, told how in April police received a report of a burglary at Pethig’s property.
They then received an anonymous call telling officers where the stolen computer would be and when police analysed it, and another one they found the images.
Of the 8,585 still images, 326 were at level five, the worst level, and 617 were at level four.
A total of 433 movie images were found and 36 of them were at level five and 290 at level four.
Justine McVitie, defending, said it was accepted the aggravating features were the sheer number of images and the number at the most serious level.
They were all for his own personal use, there was no distribution and there was no involvement in trading of such material.