A paedophile claimed he was “policing the internet” by collecting images of children being sexually abused, a court heard.
Michael Linkston was caught at his West Lothian home with more than a third of a million (320,000+) indecent photos and movies stored on 11 computer hard drives.
Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary the 49-year-old pervert told social workers he had no sexual interest in children.
Instead his excuse was that he took snapshots of pornographic pictures other people were posting online so he could alert the authorities to their crimes.
However, Livingston Sheriff Court was told that the convicted sex offender never contacted the police, or any other agency.
Linkston, was jailed today (Thursday) after earlier pleading guilty on indictment to taking and making indecent images of children over three and a half years.
His not guilty pleas to possessing indecent photographs for more than a decade and to having extreme porn showing females having sex with animals in “an explicit and realistic way” were accepted by the prosecution.
He was snared after police raided his home in Tippet Knowes Park, Winchburgh, on 1 March 2019. Detectives got a search warrant for the property after a tip off that the internet address had been used to download porn.
The number of still and moving images that forensic experts found on his computer equipment ranked as one of the highest ever recorded by Police Scotland.
He had 1,288 indecent videos – 327 of them categorised as class ‘A’ showing youngsters being raped, 227 in category ‘B’ featuring non penetrative sexual abuse and 734 category ‘C’ movies of children posing naked or being abused in other ways.
The total number of still images found in his depraved collection shocked experienced officers. There were 604 in category ‘A’, 1,107 in category ‘B’ and a staggering 318,537 in category ‘C’.
Paul Cannavan, defending, admitted: “The numbers are really high – there’s no getting away from that – however, the numerical bulk of the images was in category ‘C’.
“There’s an alternative to custody by way of imposing a community payback order. There’s also unpaid work which he is fit and able to do.
“A focussed, onerous and detailed order might have more benefit, looking at this offending, for the community at large.
“His denial of interest in these images of children is perhaps the start of a longer journey.”
Mr Cannavan said Linkston was due to see a psychiatrist following his court appearance in order to address his mental health difficulties.
He added: “He’s in a very remorseful state this morning, very tearful. He’s never come to the adverse attention of police in his life.”
Passing sentence, Sheriff Susan Craig told Linkston there was no alternative to a prison term because of the very high volume of images and numerous aggravating factors.
She told him it was of concern to the court that so many indecent images had been amassed by him over such an extended period of time.
Sheriff Craig said: “Your explanation as to why you had these amounts is unconvincing.
“Your position is that you were effectively policing the internet and taking snap shots of what other people were posting.
“It’s also clear that at no stage did you ever report things to anyone. The one thing you should have done you didn’t do, but you stored the images on 11 separate hard drives.”
She added: “You also deny having any sexual interest in children. Social work think that’s an unlikely explanation and they think you do have that inclination.
“In your case there are a number of aggravating factors, firstly the high volume of the material you collected over a significant period.
“There was significant planning. You deliberately went seeking this material and stored it on these hard drives to ‘report to the police’, which you didn’t do.
“You don’t take responsibility for your actions and you have very limited insight into the illegality of your behaviour.
“The only mitigating factor I was able to identify is you appear to have been of good character up to this point.
“In terms of risk, I’m told in the background report that your sexual interest in young children will remain a risk until you manage your attraction.”
The sheriff said the Appeal Court had ruled that offenders with a significant number of images in the most serious category should be imprisoned unless possession was ‘fleeting’ or there were compelling personal circumstances such as extreme old age.
She told Linkston: “There’s no alternative but for me to impose a custodial sentence on you given the number of images you have.
“You are fairly and squarely at the top end of the suggested sentencing strategy.”
She sentenced Linkston to 27 months in prison and ordered that his name remain on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.