FORMER Trafford councillor Matthew Sephton has been jailed for two years and nine months after being found guilty of downloading and distributing indecent images and videos of children.

Teacher Sephton, aged 42, was found with  3,774 indecent images and 31 videos on mobile phones and a computer at his home.

He told Manchester Minshull Street Court that a mystery man called Tom was responsible for the images - but the jury did not belive him.

Trafford councillor Sephton was found guilty of six counts relating to images of children, the first three relating to making indecent images, between November 4 and December 1, 2016.

As exclusively revealed in the Messegner at the time, the primary school teacher was arrested on December 1, 2016, when officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) carried out a search warrant at his home in Maximus Drive, Altrincham.

Huw Edwards, prosecuting, said: “Those images recovered, of which there are thousands, were recovered from not one, but from three devices belonging to the defendant, using accounts registered in his name, on many occasions.”

The jury was told that the three devices had been used to access pornographic websites, including some about teenage boys. Search terms included ‘hot naked girl’ and ‘sex fix’.

Mr Edwards said that when police interviewed Sephton, he answered no comment to all questions other than to provide passwords and pin codes to the phones and computer.

Silas Reid, defending, called Sephton as a witness. The primary school teacher said he was ‘dumbstruck’ and ‘petrified’ when the NCA arrived at his home on December 1, 2016.

He said he was only made aware that his three devices contained indecent images when he was interviewed by police in April, 2017.

Sephton said: “I just could not believe what I was hearing. As far as I was aware, this was a huge mistake.

“I felt absolutely sick when they told me what they had found.”

Sephton, who said he is gay, formerly ran an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group.

He told the court he had begun an on-off relationship with a man who he knew only as ‘Tom’ in November, 2015.

“We met on Canal Street — the main LGBT area in Manchester”, he said.

“We would meet on his way home from work, usually at my house.

“We never made arrangements to phone. He told me he was bisexual and in love with a girl at the time.

“That was his preference. He was very reluctant to give me his phone number.”

When Mr Reid asked Sephton if he was responsible for any of the images found on the devices, he replied no.

Sephton also told the jury he keeps his computer switched on while he is at home.

When asked if he knew for sure who it was, he again replied no.

In response to Mr Reid’s question as to whether he believed he knew who it was, Sephton said: “Yes. I believe it was Tom.

“He was the only person who had been round to my house sufficient times to make it possible.”

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He added: “When I was confronted with information from the police, I had to think, if it is possible that any of this is true about my device or internet, I had to work out who it could be.

“After I calmed myself down, Tom was the only person I could think of who would have the time and the access.

“Anyone who was in the house would be able to get their hands on the phone.”

Sephton said he had visited Manchester every day for four weeks to try and find Tom, as well as visiting Knutsford, where he understood Tom worked at an estate agent.

But Sephton said he had not had contact with Tom since November 30 — the day before he was arrested.

The court heard that the NCA seized two Apple iPhones from Sephton's bedroom and an iMac computer from the study during.

Sephton was arrested and taken to Cheadle Police Station.

The jury heard how the NCA took copies of the computer hard drive and examined the devices.

The court was told specialist software was used to retrieve images.

It heard the NCA discovered 31 indecent videos of children and 3,774 indecent still images of children.

Mr Edwards aid: "One of the phones was recovered with 106 images of children and a number of images of an extreme pornographic nature.

"Within one application, there were a large number of text conversations, mostly in group conversations, and mostly talking about the sharing of indecent images of children.

"Most of those groups contained a title that was immediately indicative that those groups were talking about indecent images of children. Some of the icons were indecent images of children themselves.

"The Facebook messenger and text communications quite clearly relate to a sexual interest in under age children, specifically boys."

The court heard that the devices seized on December 1 contained hundreds of images relating to children.

On one of the phone, 106 images of children were found.

The court heard that a total of 17 images of extreme pornographic nature were also discovered, relating to count six.

Sephton denied all the charges.

Hazel Stewart, NCA CEOP operations manager, said after the case: “Throughout his offending, Matthew Sephton held positions of trust as both a primary school teacher and a local councillor.

“He was expected to be a role model for children but was actively involved in sharing the most horrendous child abuse images imaginable.

“Every time these images are shared, the child is victimised again and again.

“NCA officers are dedicated to protecting children. We work closely with our law enforcement partners to target and identify those using online tools to perpetuate child abuse and bring them to justice.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Downloading and distributing child abuse images are despicable crimes. Behind every picture or video are real children who have suffered appalling harm.

“Sephton held positions of responsibility in his community but his actions have helped to fuel an industry which feeds off children’s suffering.

“Every time someone like Sephton clicks on this material, the demand for more children to be abused increases.

“The NSPCC is calling on tech companies, government and law enforcement to target this growing problem at source by preventing this content from being published online in the first place.”