A FORMER councillor has described how he considered suicide after being arrested on child pornography charges.
Nathan Bale, former Cornwall councillor for Bude and Stratton North, viewed indecent images of children online over an eight-year period.
Appearing before Bodmin Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, 31-year-old Bale, of Penfound Gardens, Bude, was ordered to attend a sex offenders’ programme.
He was told he could have been jailed had it not been for his early guilty pleas to ten offences.
Bale, who stood down as a councillor earlier this year, had acted out of “morbid curiosity” and had then become fixated on the images, said his solicitor, Chris Mitchell.
Speaking after his conviction, Bale said he felt ashamed at what he had done and had contemplated killing himself, but now wanted to do something to stop anyone else repeating his actions.
“I was suicidal for months,” he said. “I’d destroyed what was potentially a good life.
“I’ve had mental health problems since; there was something wrong in my head which made me look at these things. I knew it was wrong, but I had to do it.”
He said he understood that many people would not trust him any more, but that he wanted to rebuild his life with the support of his wife Tiffany – due to give birth to their son in five weeks – his parents and his sisters.
“I’m being punished and I should be, but if nothing else comes out of it, I hope I can dissuade anyone else from accessing these sites,” he said.
“I didn’t have anything stored on my computer but it was on my internet history. If you’ve looked at anything on your screen, the forensic investigators will find it out.
“There must have been something wrong in my head that made me look at these things: a sort of morbid curiosity about doing something secret. I knew it was wrong, but I still looked at it.
“It wasn’t sexual. I don’t think people will understand, but it was like a puzzle I couldn’t put down.
“I don’t know exactly what started it, but people were talking about paedophiles and I started to search for what they were looking at.
“I made the biggest mistake of my life and it’s destroyed me. I’m guilty, I did what I shouldn’t have done, and I understand what people might feel about me.
“I’ve tried to turn this into something positive and to get help by talking to an organisation called Stop It Now.”
At the Bodmin court on December 7 Bale, who had admitted ten charges involving the making of 548 images between April 2003 and June 2011, was sentenced to a two-year community order.
The court was told that Bale had lost both his job and what Mr Mitchell called “a promising career in local politics”.
Terry Eastwood, for the prosecution, said on March 6, 2010, a legitimate website called buildarecipe.co.uk had crashed as a result of an extremely large number of hits.
Unknown people had uploaded 2,500 indecent images to the site and Bale was among those who had viewed them.
A warrant was executed at his home on June 7 this year and two computer towers were seized. On them were 548 indecent images; though most were at the lowest level of seriousness, four were found to be in a higher category.
There was also evidence that Bale had searched child pornography sites, made efforts to “clean” some images from his computer’s history and some images had been deleted.
Mr Mitchell said that after initial morbid curiosity, Bale had become fixated on the images and this had continued over some time.
However, “at no time did he gain any sexual gratification from these images”.
Bale’s life had been dealt a “dramatic blow” by the proceedings and the case had put stress both on him and his wife. He had shown a great deal of insight into the offences and had voluntarily sought help for his behaviour, which he was determined not to repeat.
Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Peter Martin told Bale the offences were so serious he could have been jailed.
However, after considering a pre-sentence report and taking account of his pleas, the magistrates imposed a high-level community order for two years, with probation supervision and a requirement that he attend the Internet Sex Offenders’ Programme.
He was also given a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and told to register as a sex offender for the same period.
Mr Martin said the SOPO was intended “to protect the public from serious sexual harm”. It did not restrict Bale from having contact with children but prohibited him from both preventing police officers from examining computers owned by him and deleting his own history of internet use. Bale was also ordered to pay £85 in prosecution costs.
“I know I won’t be able to go into politics again, and people have been saying horrific things about me on Facebook,” said Bale, “but no one’s reaction can be worse than the damage I’ve done to myself.
“Anyone who’s called me a paedophile is slandering me because I know I don’t have a secret interest in children.”
He went on: “I have no credibility now, and it will affect the rest of my life. I want to warn others not to look for these things. I shouldn’t have been looking in the first place, and the stigma will follow me for the rest of my life.”
He said he was not sure what he would do now, but that his wife was supporting him and he was rebuilding his life.