Appearing at Antrim Crown Court by videolink from the offices of McIvor Farrell solicitors, 22-year-old Michael McCollum entered guilty pleas to each of the eight charges against him.
Originally from Carnlough but now with an address at a south Belfast hostel, McCollum admitted six counts of possessing indecent images of children and two of having prohibited images of children between 28 January 2018 and 11 June 2018.
Defence solicitor advocate Paul Farrell revealed the offending images had been uncovered on devices seized during an earlier investigation when McCollum was found to be engaging in explicit online chats with two young schoolboys.
He further revealed that McCollum is already on the police sex offenders, is “currently going through a probation order” with two years of it still to run and is “subject to public protection matters in the community as well.”
Those orders were put in place when McCollum was handed a four and a half year sentence for sex offences in March last year, split between 18 months in jail and three years on licence.
In that case McCollum had pleaded guilty to to a total of 17 sex offences including five counts of breaching an earlier SOPO, six counts of making or possessing prohibited and indecent images of children at categories A and B, two counts of sexual communication with a child and four counts of causing or inciting the boys to engage in sexual acts or watch sexual acts, all committed between 31 December 2018 and 1 March 2019.
When he was jailed, prosecuting counsel Suzanne Gallagher told the court how the PSNI were alerted to McCollum’s online activities by Lancashire police after they had been contacted by the parents of two ten-year-old boys who had discovered that a man with the moniker “almost there 19” had befriended them and chatting to them via Instagram.
By interrogating web service providers, Lancashire police were able to trace the IP address to McCollum’s home in Carnlough.
Examinations of devices uncovered that McCollum had downloaded and saved eight images at category A and further images at categories B and C.
In court today Mr Farrell confirmed to Judge Patricia Smyth there was no evidence that McCollum had distributed the images or had used file sharing software and highlighted that at 22, “he is still a pretty young man.”
“Very young but with a pretty serious record Mr Farrell,” replied the judge who ordered a probation pre-sentence report and adjourned passing sentence until 14 September, freeing McCollum on bail in the meantime.