By Michael Donnelly
A 21-year-old 'IT' student addicted to so-called 'child pornography', even when he himself was a child, was today (wed) freed on three years probation and put on the sex offenders' register for five years.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said watching such "nasty vidoes" of children being abused and exploited was an addiction like any other but that Lemuel Ching Hui had already sought help which was "a first step on the road" to dealing with his.
However, the senior Crown Court judge said it was important to bear in mind the children in the vidoes were "real victims... these are real children and one shudders to consider what lives these children have lived and continue to live".
Hui of Wellesley Avenue, Belfast had pleaded guilty to five charges of possessing indecent images of children across the whole spectrum of such images, from the most serious Category A to the least Category C.
Earlier prosecution barrister Jim Johnston said that while Hui was fully co-operative with police, he initially attempted to hide the 37 indecent images on his computer aware officers from the National Crime Agency were coming to arrest him last March.
Mr Johnston also revealed that Hui admitted to police working as a "mentor" to youngsters, telling officers it was "ironic we have been through child protection training", while tt the same time, for his "own sexual gratification" he downloaded 19 vidoes, all but three in the most serious Category A, along with 18 still images from the 'Dark Web'.
Defence lawyer Sean O'Hare, said the gifted acedemic had 'maintained an unhealthy' interest of such images ever since he began watching such material from an early age.
However, the barrister added the arrest of Hui, who had already sought professional help in dealing with his addiction, "was a release for him and a shifting of the burden since this has been uncovered", interupting his offending before it escalated.
"This is someone who can be turned back form the path he was on," said Mr O'Hara, who added the probation work he would be undertaking woud help ensure the public's protection.
A spokesperson for NSPCC Northern Ireland said: “Every child in the sickening images inHui’s possession is a victim who has experienced horrendous abuse in the real world.
“In downloading these images Hui has only helped fuel the demand for this abhorrent material.
“The NSPCC is calling for government, tech companies and law enforcement to do more totackle the supply of, and demand for, child sexual abuse images online and prevent them from being viewed by offenders like Hui in the first place.”
Anyone with concerns about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline 24/7 on 0808 8005000.