September 2022

Coleraine man sentenced for 200,000 indecent images and videos of children freed on time served

A 56-year-old man with a self-confessed “sexual interest” in children will be freed from prison today despite receiving a two-year sentence for possessing more than 200,000 indecent images and videos of children.

Stephen McLaughlin, from Laburnum Place in Coleraine, has spent so much time in custody waiting for his case to be dealt with that he is now set to be released and has just seven months left of his supervised prison licence.

Sentencing McLaughlin at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Richard Greene QC said that while it was “tempting” to impose a probation order on McLaughlin, as that would help him address his deviant issues, “that could been seen as sentencing [him] twice”, given the significant period he had already spent on remand.

Ordering McLaughlin to sign the police Sex Offenders Register for ten years and imposing a ten-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order, the judge told the pervert “this is a very serious case and you know that”.

“You are well aware of what you are accessing,” the judge continued, referencing the 200,000 videos and images, including 2,000 of those within the most heinous category “depicting what can only be described as extremely disturbing”.

At an earlier hearing, McLaughlin entered guilty pleas to 22 charges relating to indecent images of children and one of having prohibited images on dates between January 1, 2015 and May 21, 2019.

Prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers told the court that police raided McLaughlin’s home in May three years ago and when asked if he had illegal material, he told the investigators “sure, you know I do” but stressed “there was no distribution”.

Examination of his seized devices showed that he used two different, covert browsers in order to search and store offending material, admitting that “he has a sexual interest in children”, said the lawyer.

In total, 205,000 images and videos were uncovered — 197,000 within category C, 4,000 within category B and 2,000 within category A.

McLaughlin had a vast amount of material and that the offences were aggravated as he had a previous conviction for a “contact sexual offence” in the mid 1990s

Judge Greene said the custody threshold had been passed, because of the guidelines and sentencing range available to him.

Effectively, McLaughlin was freed on time served.