March 2019

Angus ex-squaddie’s name put on register for “appalling” text messages

An Angus army veteran has avoided going behind bars for sending a flood of “appalling” explicit texts to a 14-year-old girl.

Andrew Richards was snared by the national child exploitation unit after a text message trail led to the 45-year-old’s mobile phone during an investigation into concerns about the girl.

Forfar Sheriff Court heard he had been involved in “prolonged” communication with the teenager over three months, using “industrial” language which a sheriff said may have been a regular feature of his 11-year service career but was “entirely inappropriate” in relation to his victim.

Richards, of Knowehead Crescent, Kirriemuir appeared for sentence before Sheriff Gregor Murray at Forfar having previously admitted sending explicit messages to the girl between May 31 and July 29 2017.

The lorry driver was also criticised by the judge for attempting to minimise his actions.

The court heard Richards sent the disgusting messages after becoming aware the teenager had been caught having consensual sex.

An unrelated matter led to the teenager’s mobile phone being examined and it was then that child exploitation concerns emerged after it was found she was communicating with numerous people.

Defence solicitor Ian Myles said: “Initially things were okay, but he indicates he was using industrial language and he fully accepts it was wholly inappropriate,” said the solicitor.

“He is a first offender. This matter started on petition but he pled guilty very soon after it was reduced to summary.”

Sheriff Murray told Richards: “This, by any standard, was a tactless and appalling offence.

“I have considerably difficulty reconciling what you said about the offence and your minimisation of it.

“If you are saying the industrial language you used were terms common in the army, they are certainly not terms which should be used towards a 14-year-old.”

Richards was a placed on a one-year Community Payback Order, including 180 hours unpaid work.

His name will also go on the sex offenders’ register for 12 months, and he will be subject to strict conduct requirements including a ban on having contact with anyone under 17, informing the authorities of any intimate relationship he gets involved in and making available for inspection any device he owns which is capable of accessing the internet.