Ex-councillor admits porn charges

 

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The Independent Online

A Lib Dem MP's former aide, who ran a campaign to prevent the closure of a local swimming pool popular with children, avoided a jail sentence today after admitting child porn offences.

Nathan Bale, 31, the former constituency office manager of North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, was given a two-year community order by magistrates in Bodmin who heard that he became "fixated" with child pornography after initially accessing the sordid material out of "morbid curiosity".

The court heard that married Bale, whose wife is expecting a child in January, downloaded more than 500 images over the space of eight years.

The former Lib Dem member of Cornwall Council, who resigned for "health reasons" after his arrest in June, was traced by police investigating a bizarre cyber attack on a cookery website, http://www.buildarecipe.co.uk, which saw 2,500 indecent images uploaded onto its server by hackers in March 2010.

Police traced images downloaded from the site to his computers and when they were examined after a raid on his home they also found evidence he had tried to cover his tracks, searching online for advice on "how do I clean my C Drive?"

Chris Mitchell, defending Bale, said: "He is someone whose life has been dealt a dramatic blow by his actions. He had a promising career in local politics. He has lost his job as a result of his offending and it has also affected his home life.

"This is a situation where we have someone who began viewing these images out of morbid curiosity. He became fixated with it and continued to view the images over a period of time."

Mr Mitchell told the court Bale, of Penfound Gardens, Bude, gained no "sexual gratification" from viewing the images and that he had already started seeking help for his behaviour. All bar 12 of the 548 images found on his computer were at Level One, the lowest level of seriousness in terms of indecent images.

Until his resignation Bale held the Bude North and Stratton seat on Cornwall Council for the Liberal Democrats. He took the seat in the June 2009 election, winning 72 per cent of the vote - the largest majority on the council.

As a local councillor he spearheaded a semi-successful campaign through Facebook to save Bude Sea Pool, a 1930s seawater swimming pool in the seaside resort that was threatened with closure by the council because of budget cuts.

The pool, which is filled daily with seawater by the rising tide, is popular with local children and also the thousands of tourists who flock to the town every year.

His campaign garnered the support last year of scientist Dr Alice Roberts, presenter of the BBC's Coast programme, who wrote to him supporting his efforts with the pool. The council later gave the campaigners more time to look at ways of raising the £30,000 needed to run the pool annually.

After his arrest, the court heard, he made no comment in police interviews. He later pleaded guilty to 10 charges of making indecent images of children between 2003 and 2011 when he appeared at Bodmin magistrates on November 8 this year.

Prosecutor Terry Eastwood told the court: "The computers seized were searched by local police officers. They found there had been an effort made to 'clean' some of the images off a computer."

Bale was made the subject of a two-year supervision order and forced to allow police to monitor his internet use. He will remain on the Sex Offenders' Register for five years.

PA