Child photo shame to cost army colonel £1million

Lt. Col. Mark Smyth Pic: SWNS

Lt. Col. Mark Smyth Pic: SWNS - Credit: Adam Gray

A TOP-ranking Army officer who admitted secretly filming youngsters in swimming pools and supermarkets avoided jail on Monday despite possessing thousands of child abuse images.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smyth prowled shop aisles near his barracks with his phone in the bottom of shopping baskets taking pictures up skirts.

The 43-year-old from Nailsea also spied on children in swimming pool changing rooms and made movies from his images.

He uploaded them to film-sharing sites and also a Russian paedophile website where he traded passwords to them for child abuse images.

The offences happened between January 2011 and November 2012 when Smyth was based at Tidworth barracks in Wiltshire, serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

On Monday, Bristol Crown Court heard he changed his name to Mark Radway after his arrest and before his first court appearance.

Smyth, of Briar Close, pleaded guilty to six counts of taking an indecent photograph of a girl and six of distributing an indecent photograph of children. He also admitted three counts of making an indecent image of a child and one of possessing more than 4,000 indecent images of children.

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Smyth was handed a three-year community order and ordered to undergo a 60-day sex offenders’ programme. He was also banned from residing at an address where a female child under the age of 16, other than a member of his own family, also resides without the permission of their parent or guardian. His use of the internet has also been restricted and he was placed on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Nadeem Aullybocus, prosecuting, said: “They were all females, they range from the age of five to 16. He said it started as a game of risk, which was all about the thrill and the adrenaline rush.”

His haul of images contained more than 5,000 photos and videos of children, including hundreds in the two most serious categories, and bestiality. But police say that does not include the thousands he wiped from four computers days before he was arrested.

Rosaleen Collins, defending, said: “This is a case with no contact offending. It is the opposite in fact.”

Judge Geoffrey Mercer said: “Quite what caused you to commit those offences perhaps not even you really know. They are shameful offences and you are, I expect, fully ashamed of them.”

Smyth now stands to lose more than £1million in loss of earnings and pension, the court heard. However, The Ministry of Defence refused to comment on his future.

Speaking after the sentence, DI Mark Coleman, said: “This sentence sends a clear message to those engaging in this type of activity, that we have sophisticated systems that will enable us to identify you.”

 * An earlier version of this article misreported the terms of Mark Radway’s Sexual Offences Prevention Order.  The article has now been corrected.