A Wishaw man who was twice caught with child abuse images has been spared a prison sentence.

Stephen McGowan, 52, will instead be under social work supervision for three years.

He has been placed on the sex offenders’ register for the same period.

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McGowan appeared for sentence at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Friday, after admitting two charges of downloading indecent images.

Mairi-Clare McMillan, prosecuting, said police officers armed with a search warrant seized a mobile phone from his home in Priory Terrace, Netherton, on October 16, 2019.

It contained 138 images, including 19 in the most serious category.

Ms McMillan told the court: “The accused was unwell due to a pre-existing condition. He was taken to hospital and arrested the next day after being released.

“During an interview he admitted looking at images, saying his dad had died and he was struggling.”

McGowan was given bail on condition that he allowed his internet devices to be inspected by police at any time.

He handed over a mobile phone in April last year and it was found to contain 67 child abuse images.

Defence agent Tom Watters said that, after admitting the charges in March, train driver McGowan had lost his job.

He was also forced to move address after the local community reacted angrily to news of his conviction.

Arguing against a prison sentence, Mr Watters stated: “He has no previous convictions and has already suffered fairly severely because of this case.

“He accepts what he has done and that it has to stop. He says it will not happen again.”

Sheriff Colin Dunipace said he was concerned, having read a criminal justice social work report, that McGowan might re-offend.

He told the accused: “These offences clearly merit a lengthy period in custody.

“I’m concerned that you are not accepting responsibility and might not address your issues.

“But, as well as the public interest, I must consider what is best in terms of your rehabilitation.

“I’m satisfied, just on balance, that I can step back from imposing a custodial sentence.”

The sheriff told McGowan there will be restrictions on his internet use during the three-year supervision period.

Other conditions of the order include a ban on him having contact with anyone aged 17 or under without the prior approval of his supervising officer.

McGowan must also do 200 hours of unpaid community work and will be electronically tagged for four months. That means he’s confined to his home between 7pm and 7am each day.

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