Social media use by a repeat sex offender from Angus was described as the most flagrant breach seen by a sheriff.
At Forfar Sheriff Court Scott Bell was told by Sheriff Gregor Murray his case had caused the sheriff “considerable difficulty from a sentencing point of view” because of the lack of protection the public would receive if he was sent behind bars for only a short spell.
The 28-year-old was put on the notification register for three years when he appeared for sentencing on Thursday.
Appearing on indictment, Bell, of Restenneth Drive, Forfar, had admitted breaking the strict terms of a three-year supervision order imposed at Dundee Sheriff Court in late 2017, after he was caught with indecent images of children at a property in Forfar the previous year.
That offence followed a conviction almost a decade earlier when he was placed on the sex offenders register for sending sexual messages to 13 and 14-year-olds.
The community payback order (CPO) imposed at Dundee included tight controls on the accused’s access to the internet and social media and the court heard he had used a mobile phone to access the popular Snapchat app.
Bell’s solicitor told the court: “He accepts there is no excuse for the breach.
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“His explanation is that he suffered loneliness – he lost his friends and his partner as a result of his conviction.
“He has the opportunity of employment as a farm worker if a community-based disposal is imposed today to get his life back on track.”
Sheriff Murray said the low number of indecent images Bell was caught with would “not ordinarily” lead to a prison sentence, and sentencing rules did not allow a return to jail for a short term, followed by a community payback order on release.
He said Bell had shown “callous and blatant behaviour” in the Snapchat breach.
“If I sent you back to prison for a short time we would be back to square one,” Sheriff Murray said.
“What I intend to do is impose a new CPO for three years, during which you will be subject to supervision, and an order for 150 hours of unpaid work which must be completed within one year.”
Conditions of the order include a ban on Bell having unsupervised contact or working with under-18s without prior approval, and restrictions on accessing the internet.
His name will also be placed on the sex offenders register for the next three years.