Saturday 24 February 2018

Man had 170-page manual 'on how to abuse and groom children'


Lesley Houston

A man has admitted having a 170-page paedophile manual on how to groom children in one of the most disturbing cases ever uncovered in Northern Ireland.

Gary Carruthers (34), from Victoria Street, Belfast, was found with more than 6,000 indecent images of youngsters.

Police also discovered 'pseudo-images', where the faces of children are superimposed onto abuse images. It is believed that one of these images used a photograph of a child known to Carruthers.

The 6,000-plus pictures were found on two storage devices which were part of a haul of 30 found in the bedroom of the house Carruthers shared with his mother and sister. The National Crime Agency (NCA) is yet to investigate 28 of the devices.

An officer from the NCA told the court how some of the files, contained within discs found in a safe in the defendant's bedroom, were encrypted, and that attempts to secure codes to access them had so far been unsuccessful.

A solicitor for Carruthers said his client had not refused to reveal the codes, rather that he did not know that the files, which were downloaded from a website, were encrypted or he did not know the passwords.

Ards Magistrates Court heard yesterday how the images that have so far been accessed varied in degree of severity from level one up to level five.

The NCA officer said the 170-page manual was a guide on "how to approach a child" and gave detailed steps on grooming a youngster, from the first introduction to full physical abuse.

A prosecuting lawyer said that Carruthers, who had no criminal record, presented "a clear and present danger to children". The NCA officer said he could not disagree with the assessment.

Carruthers appeared handcuffed in the dock of the court with head bowed for the duration of the brief hearing, visibly shaking throughout.

He is charged with possessing the manual on September 16 and with possessing indecent photographs of children on the same date.

He is further charged with making indecent pseudo-images of children.

He attended court yesterday following his arrest the previous day, which his barrister pointed out was at variance with a decision by the PSNI to remand him on police bail when first charged on September 16.

The lawyer said that when Carruthers, who made full admissions to the charges, enlisted his services on September 23, police already knew of the charges and the details of the items found.

"He was bailed to his home address to live with his mother and sister but agreed to leave that address and went to stay at a hostel, where he stayed until yesterday before his arrest," the lawyer added.

"In terms of bail, police were aware of this on September 23 and he wasn't rearrested. My point is that if there was such a concern, then he should have been arrested on that date, but he wasn't." The solicitor conceded the contents of the manual were "horrific and alarming" and said his client, who had been working part-time as a cleaner, lived "an isolated existence".

"He has no friends, his only communication with anyone is through the internet and he spends his entire life in his bedroom," he added.

The court also heard that there was "no evidence that he has ever made any approach to anyone".

"These are serious issues, but this is also a person who has detached himself from reality," the solicitor said.

"My submission is that [the files] do not leave his bedroom, and there's no evidence that he was intending to act upon them."

The solicitor continued that his client had "fallen under the radar" during his life and questioned Carruthers' "understanding" of the crimes.

But refusing bail, district judge Mark Hamill said the existence of the manual meant it was impossible to release him.

Mr Hamill added: "The court finds it difficult to accept that he has it [the manual] for theoretical reasons. The court can't accept putting children at risk."

Carruthers was remanded in custody to appear in court again via videolink on November 6.

Belfast Telegraph

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