Shamed soldier had 500 indecent images of children

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A SCOTS based soldier who asked teenage girls to send him pictures of themselves in their underwear has been sentenced to 225 hours of community service and put on probation for three years.

Gavin Booth, 30, based at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh with 3 Rifles, kept more than 500 indecent images of children on his computer.

He admitted possessing and distributing images of children, sending text messages to teenage girls which were both “sexual and lewd” in nature and contacting underage girls online.

Booth, who joined the army at the age of 16, pled guilty to four charges which happened between June 2007 and August 2009, but pled not guilty to a charge of making his own indecent images.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how his wife had logged onto his laptop while he was away on a camping trip, and found emails confirming friend requests he had sent to girls aged between 14 and 19 on the social networking site Facebook.

At the hearing in October, Procurator Fiscal Melanie Ward said: “His wife was concerned but it was one of her friends who reported it to the Army Welfare Manager, who then took it to the Ministry of Defence Police.”

On August 28 last year the Ministry of Defence issued a search warrant on Booth’s home in North Shields, and seized a number of computers and mobile phones.

Ms Ward said when Booth was cautioned he admitted he had made contact with two teenage girls, both under the age of 16, and admitted using the internet to search terms which would lead him to find underagers.

She said: “When he was asked about images of children he admitted downloading some and that he had received some others through email and through contacts on MSN Messenger.

“He admitted having a sexual interest in girls aged between 14 and 19, but claimed to have had an obsession with the internet rather than with actual sex.”

Booth also admitted distributing some images to these “contacts”.

The Court heard that when asked about his interaction with young girls, Booth had said he had asked two teenagers aged 14 and 15 to send him pictures of themselves in their underwear.

He also admitted asking the 15-year-old girl “personal questions” about her body on MSN Messenger.

More than 500 images were found on his laptop, all ranging between levels one and four on the ‘SAP’ scale, which measures the different levels of indecent images.

The Court also heard that since first appearing in January this year, Booth has been allowed no unsupervised visits with his five-year-old child.

Booth’s lawyer Duncan Hughes said: “It is my submission that he should escape a custodial sentence because the majority of the images were levels one and two, which are at the lower end of the scale.”

Mr Hughes added that Booth was currently working out his 12 months notice with the army, which is due to end in June next year.

He said: “If he is given a custodial sentence his contract will be terminated immediately, but no matter what the outcome is, his army career has come to an end.”

He added that Booth had felt as though he was being overlooked for promotion opportunities within the army, and that his marriage was breaking down.

Mr Hughes said: “Both of these factors had an effect on Mr Booth which were making him feel powerless, and could be an explanation for his behaviour.”

Today(Wed) at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Booth was told he would also face a number of special conditions.

Sheriff James Scott said: “You are not to have any contact whatsoever with any child under the age of 17 unless arranged by your supervising officer.

“You must allow inspection on any equipment used to access the internet.

“And you must also attend a sex offending group work programme for the duration of your probation period.

“You are to complete 225 hours of unpaid work within the community over the next 12 months, and you will report to your supervising officer for a probation period of three years.”

Sheriff Scott also reminded Booth that he would have to comply with the terms of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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