HMA v Martin Blyth

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 3 May 2016, Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC imposed an extended sentence of five years imprisonment on Martin Blyth after the accused pleaded guilty to possessing indecent images of children. The custodial term is three years followed by an extension period of two years on licence.

On sentencing, Sheriff Arthurson made the following statement in court:

“Martin Blyth, on 5 April 2016 you tendered a plea of guilty to a contravention of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 section 52A(1), namely that you had in your possession between 13 December 2010 and 18 May 2015 indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children. 

Following execution by police officers of a warrant at your home in Edinburgh your computer equipment was seized and examined. 

The total number of still images found was 488,372 including 4,724 at category A, the most serious level.  In addition, a total of 1,241 video files were found, including 264 at category A.

This represented the largest single collection of indecent images ever encountered by the cybercrime officers involved in the enquiry and represents one of the largest collections of this nature found in Scotland in recent times. 

The Crown has accurately described these images as a sickening collection of images of children from the age of five years old being raped by adults, being forced to perform sexual acts with animals, and being tied up and abused. 

Given the vast scale of the images which they required to deal with, it took officers a full three months simply to complete their grading process.

The criminal justice social work report and risk assessment available to the court is disturbing in its terms. 

Your offending took place over a period of years. During that time you chose to continue to look for what you describe as more ‘unusual child abuse images’. 

You only sought help for your behaviour once you were charged by officers in 2015. The level of planning involved in your offending was dedicated and substantial.

You have described getting up early while your wife slept to download images, and ‘racing home’ from your employment in order to do the same. 

The criminal justice social work report confirms that you also visited chat rooms. 

Your compulsion to view deviant material involving the appalling and degrading sexual abuse of children over such a prolonged period led you to amass this collection through downloading activities on what can only be described as an industrial scale. 

The motivation for your offending was sexual gratification, and although your offending was non-contact in nature, it can properly be described as being at the highest level of seriousness.

Consumers of this obnoxious and depraved material create a market for those who produce these images leading to the very real sexual abuse, as depicted in your collection of images, of thousands of real children across the world in unimaginably horrific ways, causing incalculable and long lasting harm to these child victims.

The report indicates that you have demonstrated some remorse and a willingness to engage, as you have done since 2015, with the ‘Stop It Now’ programme. These factors, and your previous lack of offending, are significant mitigating factors in your favour. You will appreciate nevertheless in your case that a community disposal from this court is simply out of the question. 

Your systematic searching for images and video clips, the sheer scale thereof and the period libelled mean that there is no alternative to the imposition of a custodial sentence. 

Standing the gravity of your offending I have concluded, having had regard to the terms of the report and risk assessment prepared by trained social workers and to the nature of the offence itself, that you represent a high risk of causing serious harm from which it is necessary to protect the public.

I am therefore imposing upon you today in respect of charge 1 on this indictment an extended sentence, which is in two parts. The first part is a custodial part. That will be followed by an extended period in the community when you will remain under licence and supervision. 

On your release from custody you will be under licence, the conditions of which will be fixed by Scottish Ministers. If during this extension period you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence, it may be revoked and you may be returned to custody for a further period in respect of this indictment. The court also has power to deal with you if you commit another offence after your release while you are on licence.

The sentence of the court, for all the reasons I have expressed already, is therefore an extended sentence with a custodial term of three years, discounted from a period of four years due to the timing of your plea. 

Thereafter the sentence includes an extension period of two years, for the duration of which you will be under licence fixed by Scottish Ministers. The total length of your sentence is accordingly five years. 

Your sentence will be backdated to 5 April 2016 when you tendered your plea of guilty and were remanded in custody by the court.

Finally, as a result of this sentence, you now become subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period.”