A caretaker who superimposed pictures of children onto those of youngsters being sexually abused has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Gary Carruthers pleaded guilty to having 30,000 indecent images of children.
The 35-year-old also pleaded guilty to having two paedophile manuals – the first person in Northern Ireland to be caught in possession of such material.
Some of the children featured were as young as two years old.
Entitled Childlovin and Producing kiddie porn for dummies, the manuals were discovered along with the indecent images and extreme pornography on 20 computer storage devices and discs hidden in a safe in his bedroom.
Judge Sandra Crawford told Carruthers that the methods set out in the manuals to groom children were “utterly shocking.”
She described his use of images of the faces of pupils from the primary school where he worked as “grotesque”.
But she ordered that Carruthers, described as a “social loner”, serve two years of his term on licence to ensure he completes a recommended probation organised programme aimed at prevent his re-offending.
Because of time already served awaiting trial, Carruthers, of Victoria Street, Belfast, is now due for release from prison.
The Downpatrick Crown Court judge, sitting in Newry, 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 had helped maintain “the illegal and depraved industry which exploits and abuses children for the sexual gratification of adults”.
“Vile and despicable”
The judge said that Carruthers had abused his position as a school caretaker to photograph pupils. He then superimposed these pictures on images of children being sexually abused “in a vile and despicable fashion”.
While Carruthers pleaded guilty to having the vast bulk of material from 2012, the judge said that analysis showed that some had been recovered from the internet shortly before his arrest in September 2015.
Carruthers was placed on the Sexual Offender’s Register indefinitely, and was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the next 10 years.
Under the SOPO he is banned from using of any internet electronic devices without supervision. He is also banned from contacting anyone under 16, or people living in a household with youngsters unless approved by the authorities.
An NSPCC spokesperson said Carruthers had betrayed the trust placed on him.
“It must be remembered that these are not victimless crimes – each image includes a child who has been abused,” said the spokesperson.
“It is right that Carruthers, and anyone else who accesses these images, is brought before the courts to face justice and to help ensure that children are not placed at further risk.”