A man who held hundreds of indecent and pornographic images of children on a computer memory stick narrowly escaped being given a jail term when he appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
Alan Scollay, 51, of Strand, Gott, was instead ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service by sheriff Graeme Napier – the maximum amount of hours of voluntary work sheriff courts can hand down.
He will be registered as a sex offender, but sheriff Napier stopped short of recommending that the government ban him from working with children after a psychologist’s report ruled he did not pose a threat to youngsters.
Scollay, a musician who was said in court to have been an active member of the community before the offence came to light, had previously admitted having almost 700 disturbing images on a memory stick between March and June 2007.
On Wednesday he sat sullen and ashen-faced in the dock as sheriff Napier was shown a representative selection of images that were found on the computer disk.
One of the pictures was rated as being a “category five” – the most serious category for child pornography images – while 116 of them were classed as being on the second most serious scale, or category four.
Sheriff Napier said he found some of the category four images, which were shown as thumbnail sketches, more disturbing than the category five picture.
Defence agent Tommy Allan said Scollay had been suffering from severe stress at the time of the offence, and added the psychologist’s report confirmed his behaviour was a reaction to the strain he had been living under.
He said Scollay had simply progressed to the sites after browsing adult pornography on the internet, adding he had never paid money for any of the pictures, which were freely available for anyone to download. He had put the images on the memory stick to prevent anyone else from seeing them.
“There seemed to be a pattern when he was accessing other porn and got drawn to ever more abhorrent images,” Mr Allan said. “There is no lack of willingness on Mr Scollay’s part to explore what was behind this and face up to it and deal with who ever he is required to work with.”
He said it was “no exaggeration” to say his client had “lost everything” since the offence had come to light, and added Scollay and his family had already been effectively serving a sentence with the case hanging over them for almost two years.
“He accepts he is likely to lose his job, which is not just a means of income, it is something that is important to him,” Mr Allan said.
“He is someone who has had a strong work ethic in the past, and he has had a good standing in the community.
“He is aware he may never be able to build up that trust again, and he appreciates a lot of people are quite rightly offended by this kind of behaviour and will never look at him in the same way again.”
Mr Allan said although Scollay’s wife was in court, the two were no longer living together. He added that Scollay had virtually given up his music, as he was not made welcome at venues he went to, and had become a “virtual recluse” as a result.
The court heard Scollay had since accepted there was “real suffering” behind the photos, and that child pornography was not a victim-less crime.
“He’s made the connection back into reality,” Mr Allan said. “He himself is abhorred by these images, and understands fully the indignation people will feel in relation to it. He is someone who has previously been not just someone of good behaviour, but of good character.”
Sheriff Napier said he was entitled to jail Scollay for up to five years for the offence, however Mr Allan said the psychologist’s report had shown he was no more of a risk to children than any other heterosexual male, and he would be willing to comply with a probation order.
Sheriff Napier said while the images were disturbing, they were not the most serious he had seen during his experience as a sheriff. “I think given what is said in the psychological report and given what has been said on your behalf, I can deal with this matter by way of a non-custodial sentence. However, it will be one that involves the maximum number of community service hours I am entitled to impose, and that will be 300 hours.”