Former Tory campaign manager spared jail over indecent images of children

Former Tory campaign manager spared jail over indecent images of children

A former Conservative Party campaign manager has been spared jail for possessing indecent images of children.

Mark Lerigo had collected more than 1,500 images, including some showing babies and others involving bestiality and torture.

He walked free from Warwick Crown Court on Friday after it heard he has been judged not to pose a high risk to children.

A judge handed Lerigo, 49, a suspended jail term and told him to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

Recorder Martin Butterworth said: “I have to sentence you for downloading dreadful images of children, of children being abused, and downloading other unlawful sexual images.

”Any consumer of this dreadful material causes others to make it.“

Lerigo, of Coventry, had worked for the Conservative Party since 2011, in roles including a campaign manager and political agent.

His LinkedIn page said he was a press officer for the pro-Remain campaign Britain Stronger in Europe during the EU referendum.

Judge Butterworth told him: “You held a senior post in a political party. You are now disgraced, your reputation destroyed.

“Those two factors are not mitigation and you’re not entitled to any sympathy for that.

“But you have demonstrated remorse and shame by your attitude in interviews, latterly with the police but most recently with the Probation Service, and you have pleaded guilty.”

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Lerigo was given a two-year prison term, suspended for two years, and made the subject of a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

He was handed a 150 hours unpaid work, a four-month nighttime electronic curfew, and a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.

The judge told him: ”The pre-sentence report demonstrates that you want help and you have already sought it.

“That help can only be offered if you remain the subject of some order to be served in the community.”

Lerigo denied having a sexual interest in children when he was arrested in 2018, following an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

But in July, he admitted one count of distributing indecent images of children, three counts of making indecent images, one count of possessing extreme pornography involving animals, one count of possessing prohibited images of children and one count of publishing an obscene article.

As well as the images, investigators found a WhatsApp chat with another offender discussing the sexual abuse of children.

Lerigo’s iPad contained more than 1,000 illegal images of children, including 146 in the most serious category, and 258 items of extreme pornography.

He also had a laptop which contained evidence of another 414 illegal images.

Graham Ellis, NCA operations manager, said: “Offenders who view indecent images are fuelling more and more sexual abuse of children.

“Every time an abuse image is shared or viewed the child is revictimised.

“Child sexual abuse is a priority threat for the NCA. It doesn’t matter what walk of life an offender is from, we will do everything in our power to catch them.”

Child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs the Stop It Now! helpline, which offers confidential advice to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s behaviour.

Additional reporting by PA

The Independent – Coventry