AN innocent man was arrested because a fellow resident who had a young baby accessed child pornography on his phone.
The wrong man at the social services centre in Coventry was then questioned by police – despite him having alerted staff to what fellow-resident Thomas Girling had done, a judge at Warwick Crown Court has heard.
Girling, who was staying at the Dudley Lodge residential assessment centre in Coventry at the time, pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images of children.
Images of babies being abused were found on his own phone.
But Judge Anthony Potter said he was ‘just persuaded’ not to jail him, ‘tempted as I am to do that.’
Girling (28) of Lancaster Gate, Upper Cambourne, near Cambridge, was given a three-year community order with a condition of taking part in a sex offender programme and a rehabilitation activity.
He was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and to register as a sex offender for five years.
Prosecutor Lisa Hancox said the offences go back to 2017 when Girling, who had a young baby, was at a social services residential assessment centre in Coventry.
While he was there in May 2017 he took his mobile phone to be repaired, and another resident generously lent him his phone, into which Girling put his own SIM card.
Much to that other man’s disgust, when his phone was returned to him, he found ‘images of girls of a really young age’ being sexually abused.
He immediately reported it to staff at the centre, and the police were contacted.
The innocent man was arrested and as a result he lost his place at the centre, which he described as ruining his life.
When Girling, who was with his young baby, was arrested, his phone was seized.
And a subsequent examination of it revealed 33 still and moving images classed as being in category A – the worst category – and seven category B movies. There were 30 category C movies of children in naked or indecent poses, said Miss Hancox.
When he was interviewed Girling, who had downloaded seven category A images and one category B image using the other man’s phone, admitted having ‘sexual fetishes.’
He claimed the images on his phone had been sent to him by someone who had threatened him, and that they had disgusted him – but Miss Hancox pointed out that search terms he had used showed he had deliberately searched for them.
Simon Hunka, defending, said: “He does not accept he has any sexual interest in children, but asserts it was all a result of pressure from a person he has never met.”
Mr Hunka said Girling suffers from ADHD and autism, and argued that prison would be ‘an environment completely alien to him’ and would be a greater punishment than for someone without his medical diagnosis.
Sentencing Girling, Judge Potter told him: “You should be under no illusions that society is repelled by the kind of images that you looked at.
“The notion that you were getting some sexual satisfaction from looking at images of children being abused is something the courts find disturbing.
“As a result of what you did your friend, who was seeking only to help you, ended up being arrested and interviewed and, for a period of time, marked by the wider community as someone with this type of interest.
“You were interviewed, and at least admitted you were responsible.
“I am just persuaded there is a chance your risk might be reduced by a community order, and to draw back from sending you to prison, tempted as I am to do that.”