A 34-year-old man who downloaded thousands of images of children being sexually abused has been freed on probation for three years as the best way of helping him change his ways and for protecting society.
Freeing Edward Alexander Lee, Judge Gordon Kerr QC also criticised the leading authority which cited that such cases be met by a short period of imprisonment of between six months to a year.
This, he said, did not allow for any help being given to a defendant, or for protection of the public.
The Belfast Crown Court judge added that in those circumstances “of course it’s all our fault (the judges) that it’s not done right”.
Lee, originally from Whitehall Square, Belfast, but now living in England, pleaded guilty to a total of 15 charges involving what is commonly referred to as ‘child pornography’ but in reality are images and videos of children of all ages being sexually abused, even raped, or worse.
In the case of Lee, described by his wife as a “loving and normal young man”, the vast majority of the downloaded images were in the lowest categories one and two, although he also had some in the higher category four and five.
Judge Kerr told Lee while he’d viewed the images for his “own strange pleasure”, they were serious matters as “children were abused for these images to be made”.
The judge said it seemed to him that a sentence of up to a year in jail would do very little to assist, either him or the community.
Placing Lee on probation, he ordered him to complete a course on sexual offending which may help him stop viewing such images, and ultimately provide more protection for society.
Earlier, prosecutor Simon Jenkins said that when police went to Lee’s then Belfast home on June 5, 2014, he immediately confirmed he was the man they were looking for.
Mr Jenkins added that in addition to the 3,000 plus images and videos categorised, mainly in the lower scale of one or two, over 30,000 other images were found, which were not categorised.
During interview Lee later admitted that he had been downloading images “for perhaps the last nine years”.
Defence lawyer Taylor Campbell said that Lee had admitted his guilt from the outset, pleading guilty at arraignment, and was entirely frank and co-operative with police.