A disgraced former police officer who was found with more than 16,000 indecent images of children when he was being investigated for exchanging sexually explicit messages and images with three different women while on duty was handed a 13-and-a-half-month sentence on Monday.
Sacked PSNI constable 34-year-old Robert Jason Ainscough was given a nine-month sentence for misconduct in public office and a four-and-a-half month sentence for the offences relating to indecent photos and videos of children but Craigavon Crown Court Judge Roseanne McCormick QC ordered them to be served consecutively, half in jail and half under supervised licence conditions.
In addition, she ordered Ainscough to sign the police sex offenders register for 10 years, banned him from working with children and also imposed a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order, designed to protect the public from further offences.
Ainscough, originally from Dublin but whose address was given as c/o Lurgan PSNI station, faced two separate indictments where he had pleaded guilty to six counts of misconduct in public office on one and 13 charges of making indecent images of children on the other with all the offences committed in various dates between February 19, 2014 and September 16, 2016.
The court heard that in relation to the misconduct charges, Ainscough exchanged “highly sexually explicit” messages, including texts, photographs and videos with three different women while on duty.
In addition Ainscough, who was a constable for eight years before dismissed as a result of the charges, used the police computer to access the file on one of the women which would have made clear to him her “particular vulnerabilities.”
Ainscough had also taken screenshots of a file of a man he claimed he was about to arrest, sending the image to one of the women quipping that his arrest subject “looked like a kung fu master”.
In another instance of misconduct, Ainscough had taken screenshots of a police file relating to a parking dispute, engaging in texts that “made fun of the police report”.
Prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret had told the court how the offences were brought to light in September 2016 when one of the women sent the messages she had received from Ainscough to the Craigavon PSNI Facebook page.
“The photos indicated a male in full police uniform exposing his penis,” said the lawyer adding that while the women declined to make a statement of formal complaint, she allowed investigating officer to take screen shots of her phone.
Ainscough was arrested and his IPhone 6 was seized for examination which uncovered the fact he had been sending and receiving sexually explicit messages, photos and videos with three different women while on duty.
Ms Auret described how the photos and videos were taken by Ainscough in the toilets of Banbridge and Lurgan PSNI stations while he was in full uniform and his private parts exposed.
She said while it was a fact that Ainscough had sent the material while on duty, it was not the case that he had been ignoring or failing to complete his other duties as a police officer or that other police operations had been compromised.
It was also a matter to be taken into consideration, said the lawyer, that “all the texting was consensual” and none of the women had filed formal complaints.
It was that misconduct investigation however that led police to seize computer hard drives and memory sticks from Ainscough’s home and the court heard that when those items were examined, detectives found a total of 16,681 indecent images of children spread across ten devices including pen drivers, memory stick, lap tops and hard drives.
Ms Auret outlined how the large majority, some 16,673 images and videos, had been classified in the lowest category C, with eight being classified as B.
In an impassioned plea in mitigation, defence QC Charles McCreanor conceded that while “it’s his own fault,” Ainscough has “effectively lost everything.”
“He has lost his career, he has lost his good character, he has lost the respect that he had...he has lost out on every front imaginable,” said the lawyer adding that Ainscough’s mental health has spiralled downwards to such an extent that there had been “suicidal ideations”.
Mr McCreanor revealed the month that Ainscough had spent in jail on remand before getting bail had been entirely spent “alone, in solitary confinement”.
Jailing Ainscough, Judge McCormick said while he had admitted the charges, between then and now he had sought to vacate his pleas so although there had been delay in the case, “the defendant himself has contributed significantly to that delay and this has also diluted, to some extent, the value of the pleas” in circumstances where in her view, he faced “an overwhelming prosecution case”.
She told Ainscough his offences indicated a “sustained pattern of offending” and revealed the various reports compiled on Ainscough assessed him as “high likelihood of reoffending” as he has personality traits of impulsive behaviour and risk taking coupled with minimising his offences.
“He is indeed a disgraced man,” said the judge adding it was “not surprising” that probation recommended Ainscough undertake programs involving “consequential thinking skills” while on licence.