A FORMER councillor who was elected while hoarding hundreds of pictures and videos of child abuse has started more than two years behind bars.

Craig Edward, 34, became housing convener for West Dunbartonshire Council but will now be on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

He had a child PVG certificate. And now he is banned from speaking to anyone under the age of 18 for five years under a sexual harm prevention order.

That also bans him from owning more than one mobile phone and computer. He is not allowed to delete his browsing history.

He is blocked from having possession of any images or videos of anyone under the age of 18.

And he is banned from using any peer-to-peer online services. It was through the app Telegram that he offered and distributed indecent images.

Clydebank Post:

A sheriff said those still and video images "plumb the depths of depravity and abuse".

At one point in the court proceedings, an elderly woman shouted "rot in hell" as Edward was led to the cells.

But the former Labour councillor and SNP activist, dressed in a heavy grey coat, showed no emotion at any point in the day.

It took Edward a month after he pleaded guilty to three sexual offences to resign as councillor for Clydebank Central. There was no mention of his significant position of trust in the community at sentencing at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on March 26.

The crimes

In February, he pleaded guilty to possession of indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children at an address in Crown Avenue and elsewhere on various occasions between March 6, 2016, and September 26, 2022.

He also took or permitted to be taken or made indecent photos or pseudo-photos of children during the same period.

And on various occasions between September 20, 2022, and September 22, 2022, he distributed or showed indecent photos or pseudo-photos of children.

At his sentencing, defence solicitor Lauren Kerr said her client had offered to plead guilty months after he first appeared in court.

But the indictment then included the third and most serious charge of distributing indecent images.

She said: "He has set out his position. He was subject to a sexual assault between the ages of eight and 12 and that incident was recorded and that was reported to the police in 2002.

"He seems to have become obsessed with attempting to find any recordings of himself. He was just not thinking rationally."

Sheriff William Gallacher said: "It's absurd."

Ms Kerr said: "It's hard for my head to get around that thinking but I don't have that experience."

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The sheriff said there was an "alternative possibility" and she accepted that but Edward "disputes that" without going into further detail from the social work report.

Ms Kerr said her client had been engaging with mental health services and has been diagnosed with "complex PTSD" and is "receiving quite significant treatment with that".

She said Edward would be prepared to carry out unpaid work or have a curfew imposed as an alternative to custody.

She said he had even saved £3,000 in recent months in case a fine was considered - a comment that was quickly dismissed by the sheriff.

"He has been on bail for over a year," said Ms Kerr. "He is a first offender. He has engaged in all services made available to him. He clearly wants to make changes and deal with the difficulties of his past.

"He would be suitable for some form of community order."

She said Edward was "remorseful" but allowed his past to "spiral" and the "trauma he faced was effectively repeated by his own actions" in having images of child abuse.

Sheriff Gallacher said it was "inevitable" he would impose a significant custodial sentence and sent the former councillor to the cells while he considered the exact length.

As Edward was led away, a woman shouted "rot in hell" as she left the room.

Hoard of images

Police in September 2022 found an iPhone 10 with 599 still images and 93 videos of children, some as young as a baby.

He had a child PVG certificate at the time he had 69 still images at the most serious category A. Of the videos, 67 were the most serious, with one showing an "alarmed and distressed baby".

Police found 55 contacts in a group on the app Telegram and Edward initiated conversation with the word "trade" 15 times. Six contacts participated in the trade of images. Officers are investigating the contacts.

When Edward returned to the dock later in the day for sentencing, Sheriff Gallacher said he had read the details of the case the day before.

"My concern about your offending behaviour has not diminished," he said.

The sheriff noted that Edward accessed illegal material over a lengthy period of time. 

"You bear responsibility for the abuse by supporting demand for the material," said the sheriff.

"You sought out opportunities where you could make these images available and did so.

"You have indicated aspects of your own life. That cannot be a powerful consideration in mitigation.

"The only way I can deal with this matter is a significant custodial sentence."

He jailed Edward for 28 months. The sentence was reduced from 40 months because Edward pleaded guilty.