A Welsh Assembly member found with hundreds of images of child sex abuse has been given a suspended jail sentence.
Simon Thomas, 54, resigned from his position with Plaid Cymru and the Assembly after an early morning raid by police on his home in Aberystwyth, North Wales, on July 23.
Police seized his iPad and other electronic devices and found 539 indecent images and 77 indecent videos involving sex abuse of children aged from six to 13, Mold Crown Court heard on Wednesday.
Of those, 94 of the photos and 56 of the videos were classed as category A material, the worst kind of sexual abuse, with Thomas’ internet search history showing links to a Russian site known for sharing child sex images.
Thomas’ lawyer told the court “lonely hours” of public service spent away from home and the defendant’s “deep-rooted problems” led him into a “trap”.
Thomas, a father of two adult children and former Westminster MP, admitted three counts of possession of indecent images of children at an earlier hearing.
He was given a 26 week jail sentence, suspended for 24 months, must complete a rehabilitation course involving counselling with probation and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order for seven years.
Passing sentence District Judge Gwyn Jones said: “You have lost your good character, you have caused a significant amount of pain and trauma to your family and, to put it bluntly, a significant fall from grace.
“The fact that before July you were prominent in public life and in the public eye does not have any relevance to the way this court proposes to deal with you.”
Thomas, a former librarian, was MP for Ceredigion between 2000 and 2005.
He was also in the running to become Plaid Cymru leader but dropped out before Leanne Wood won the contest.
Justin Espie, prosecuting, told the court a police search warrant was executed at 6am on July 23 and Thomas’ iPad, iPhone, a Dell laptop, computer hard-drive and USB sticks were seized.
No details were given in court as to how or why police had reason to execute the warrant on Thomas’ home.
The defendant gave officers his passwords for the devices and admitted the offences to police.
Richard Williams, mitigating said: “It has put a huge strain on his marriage, although to her great credit the defendant’s wife has been supportive, as has his mother.
“He’s an individual who knows there’s problems that need to be addressed.
“What he said to me is a lot of his role in public service has been quite lonely, lots of hours spent on his own in accommodation some distance away from home, he got himself into a trap that he found very difficult to escape.
“He’s a person who shows a willingness to seek out assistance in addressing what are clearly deep-rooted problems in his life.”
Thomas was also ordered to pay £85 court costs and a £115 victim surcharge.