March 2021

Former teaching assistant downloaded 5,000 images of children being sexually abused

A former teaching assistant downloaded and saved thousands of images of child sex abuse, a court has heard.

Police found more than 5,000 indecent pictures and films on Iestyn Thomas’ laptops and mobile phone, and in an online storage account he had.

Officers also found he had visited a Russian website which hosted such material some 38,000 times.

Swansea Crown Court heard the 51-year-old had used a laptop which was shared by other members of his family for some of his activities – potentially dragging wholly innocent people into the police investigaiton.

Ieuan Rees, prosecuting, said the offending came to light when police executed a search warrant at Thomas’ house in Bonymaen, Swansea, early on the morning of March 4 last year.

He said officers seized the defendant’s Huawei mobile phone, and Acer and HP laptops.

An examination of the devices and of a linked DropBox online account revealed a total of 5,300 pictures and films showing the sexual abuse of children. Some 774 of these were so-called Category A images, the most explicit kind.

The examination also found 24 prohibited images of children, and 34 pictures and movies featuring animals classed as extreme pornography.

Mr Rees said the creation dates on the files reached back to at least 2015.

The court heard investigators also found Thomas had used internet search terms linked to child sexual abuse images, and had visited a Russian website which hosted images of child sex abuse around 38,000 times.

The prosecutor said it appeared from profiles on one of the laptops involved that it was a shared machine used by at least two other people in the family.

Thomas, of Cardigan Crescent, Bonymaen, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of making – downloading – indecent images of Category A, B, and C, and to possessing prohibited images and extreme pornographic images when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.

Recorder Simon Mills said Thomas had worked as a classroom teaching assistant and in a residential centre for teenagers with autism, and so would have been well aware of safeguarding issues and of the impact of sexual abuse on victims.

He said everyone who downloads and views indecent images of children makes a conscious decision to do so, and such behaviour is universally associated with a predisposition to being sexually attracted to children – whether the person admits that or not.

The recorder told Thomas he had engaged in “very determined access” of images, and the offending was so serious only a term of immediate imprisonment was appropriate.

He added that the defendant had betrayed his family by his actions, and said it was “utterly shameful” that he had carried out some of his activities on a shared computer meaning wholly innocent members of his family could have become involved in the police investigation.

Following the sentencing guidelines, and giving a one-third discount for his guilty pleas, the recorder sentenced the defendant to a total of 10 months in prison.

Thomas will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence under the UK government’s early release scheme to serve the remainder in the community.

The defendant will be a registered sex offender for the next 10 years, and was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order to control his access to the internet for the same length of time.