November 2011

Agent of Labour MP Chris Bryant is jailed for collecting 12,000 pictures of ‘the most serious child abuse images police have seen’

The agent of Labour MP Chris Bryant has been imprisoned after he was caught with a huge stash of ‘the most serious child abuse images police have ever seen’.

Stephen Carnell, who was a chairman on a primary school board of governors in Mr Bryant’s south Wales constituency, was sentenced to three years in jail.

The 58-year-old was found with 12,130 indecent images, as well as material showing sadism and bestiality, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court was told.

The divorced father of two helped shadow justice minister Mr Bryant to a resounding victory in Rhondda during last year’s election.

He had worked as a Labour councillor in Tonypandy in Rhondda and also sat on the board at another school, the court heard

Carnell began downloading paedophilic images eight years ago – and became obsessed with the ‘disturbing and appalling’ scenes.

When police visited his home, Carnell let them in, saying: ‘The child pornography is on my laptops. I’ve been stupid.’

Police saw the disturbing images on five laptops and storage equipment at his home, said David Pugh, prosecuting.

Mr Pugh said: ‘He was also distributing the images through internet file-sharing to swap with other paedophiles.’

The prosecutor said many of the images were of the most serious category, level four and five, showing ‘sexual activity with children, sadism and bestiality’. 

He said Carnell had admitted to being ‘sexually interested in both male and female images on his computer’.

But he added: ‘Carnell denied being sexually attracted to children in real life.’

The election agent admitted a total of 47 charges, consisting of 35 counts of making indecent images, seven counts of possessing and four counts of distributing indecent photographs of children between May 2003 and March 2011.

There were 12,130 images and 453 films of paedophilia – showing the abuse of babies as young as 12 months as well as boys and girls up to the age of 11.

Stephen Jury, defending, said Carnell had a ‘good character’ and had been a ‘hard-working man’ for 39 years.

He said: ‘He has operated at a high professional level but he has lost his employment.

‘From the time he was arrested, he has co-operated and done what he can to assist police.

‘He appreciates the need to join a sex offenders’ treatment programme.’ 

A reference was handed to Judge John Curran but the author was not identified.

Judge Curran said: ‘This is not a victimless crime – small children are subjected to the most appalling abuse for these photos and videos to be made.

‘Anyone who is twisted enough to take part in this activity is going to be severely dealt with especially as there is an element of distribution.

‘This has been one of the largest number of images and movies I’ve ever had to deal with.’ 

Carnell was ordered to register as a sex offender for life and banned from ever working with children.

A spokesman for Mr Bryant said that any comment would come from Welsh Labour, who said: ‘Steve Carnell was expelled from the Labour Party immediately following his conviction.’