A reverend who was found to have hundreds of indecent images of children on a number of devices has been told he failed his parishioners "horrendously".

Swansea Crown Court heard how police carried out a warrant at the home of Reverend Canon Nigel Cahill, who held a "prominent and trusted role" as the rector of Aberavon and the parish priest at St Agnes Church in Port Talbot, on June 25 last year after officers were informed that an image of a child had been uploaded from an internet source at The Rectory.

He admitted to officers: "I was online talking to someone looking at pictures of grown men and younger men. It is a problem I have had and when I'm stressed I drink and look at pictures online. There's no point denying it."

A number of devices were recovered belonging to Cahill and once accessed, police first discovered a number of online accounts within them. Cahill, of Forge Road, Port Talbot, further told officers: "None of these people exist, by the way, they are all aliases."

Once digitally examined the devices were found to have 216 Category C images of children and three Category B images. He was arrested and police investigations also led them to search another property Cahill had access to in the Cardiff area. A further device was discovered with indecent images and a sexualised Skype conversation.

During police interview Cahill accepted the devices belonged to him and went on to say that he "had a problem that had blighted his life" but due to his "highly emotional state" he would not answer any further questions.

Cahill appeared at Swansea Crown Court for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of making indecent photographs of a child – 216 in Category C between July 22, 2016, and June 26, 2020, and a further three in Category B between February 2, 2016, and June 26, 2020.

Jon Tarrant, mitigating, said: "On a pro-rata basis just over 1% of the images were Category B. The charges also span over a four-year period and in the context of many cases that comes before the court it is at the lower end. Ten months have passed now since the commission of these offences and his world has fallen apart. His relationship with the church has been damaged and he knows the impact of his offending to the community around him. His remorse is evident. There is no ambiguity – he has accepted from the start his position."

Mr Tarrant added that since Cahill's offending he had sought help from The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which is the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse.

"He is 61 years old, of clean character, and was eminently respected in his community. That is now completely shattered," Mr Tarrant added.

Judge Paul Thomas QC, sentencing Cahill, said: "You are, Mr Cahill, an intelligent man who knew at all times how wrong it was you were looking at these disgraceful images.

"It's commendable after your arrest you sought help from Lucy Faithfull organisation but it would have reflected better on you if you had done so before your arrest."

Judge Thomas told Cahill that "people looked upon him for moral and spiritual guidance and he failed them horrendously".

Cahill was sentenced to an 18-month community order and must complete a 45-day rehabilitation activity requirement. He must sign the sex offenders register for five years and a sexual offences prevention order has also been made for the same length of time. A forfeiture and destruction order has been made concerning the devices.

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In a statement issued by the Church in Wales following a previous stage of Cahill's case it said it was "deeply saddened and shocked that one of its clerics has committed such a serious offence".

The statement added: "We hold all victims of child abuse in our prayers. Following his sentencing Mr Cahill will be referred to the disciplinary tribunal of the Church in Wales, which will meet as soon as possible to consider the charge of conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence. In the meantime he remains suspended from all duties."

The statement said the offences had been "committed despite our stringent safeguarding policies and procedures".

The church's statement went on: "Mr Cahill exploited the trust and respect put in him as a cleric by the Church in Wales and by his parishioners and that will have long-term implications. We have cooperated fully with the authorities throughout the inquiry and we are grateful to the police for the sensitive and thorough nature of their investigations.

"There is no place for any form of abuse in the Church in Wales. We give the highest priority to the care and protection of children and vulnerable people in the community. To this end we regularly review our safeguarding procedures and provide comprehensive training."