A primary school caretaker who superimposed pictures of children from his Co Down school on to those depicting youngsters being sexually abused in a paedophile grooming manual, has been sentenced to a total of three years.
However, Judge Sandra Crawford, who described 35-year-old Gary Carruthers’ taking and use of pupils’ faces from the school as “grotesque”, ordered that he serve the bulk of the term, two years, on licence.
This is to ensure he completes a recommended probation-organised programme which should help prevent his reoffending and protect both children and the public in the future.
As a result, because of time already served awaiting trial, Carruthers, with an address in Victoria Street, Belfast, is now due for release from prison.
Carruthers, described as a “social loner” and possibly suffering from some form of autism, admitted having nearly 30,000 indecent images of children – some as young as two to four – being sexually abused, and also pleaded guilty to having two paedophile manuals.
He is also the first person in Northern Ireland to be caught in possession of such manuals.
They were discovered along with the indecent images and extreme pornography on more than 20 computer storage devices and discs hidden in a safe in his bedroom.
Judge Crawford told Carruthers that the methods set out in the manuals to groom children, ultimately for sex, and the images depicted in them were “utterly shocking”.
The Newry Crown Court judge said that normally guilty pleas would attract substantial credit.
However, she told Carruthers “the evidence against you was overwhelming and effectively you were caught red handed”, and when questioned initially brazened the matter out, denying all responsibility until he produced a prepared statement.
In it Carruthers accepted “responsibility” for all of the images, telling detectives “I am deeply sorry for my actions. I do not wish to comment further”.
Judge Crawford also told Carruthers that the “great harm” caused to children being sexually abused was “all too obvious”, and that by seeking and downloading such images from the internet he’d helped maintain “the illegal and depraved industry which exploits and abuses children for the sexual gratification of adults”.
The judge said that Carruthers had abused his position of trust as a school caretaker to photograph pupils which he had then used “in a vile and despicable fashion” to impose on images of children being abused.
The judge said that the variety of images, including still and videos, ranged from the lower level category one, but also included over 400 in the more serious levels four and five, depicting children being sexually abused by adults.
While Carruthers pleaded guilty to having the vast bulk of material from 2012, the judge said that analysis of them showed that some had been recovered from the internet in the weeks and days before his arrest in September 2015.
In addition to his 12 months imprisonment and two years on licence, Carruthers was placed on the Sexual Offenders Register indefinitely and was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the next 10 years.
Under the SOPO he has been banned from using any internet electronic devices without supervision.
He is also banned from contacting anyone under 16 or living in a household with youngsters unless approved by the authorities.