A PAEDOPHILE ex-councillor who championed faster broadband speeds and blasted police as incompetent has been spared jail - despite downloading vile abuse images of children.

Damon Bower, who once served as vice-chairman of Haydon Wick Parish Council last year, had a short film on his iPhone showing a girl of between eight and 10 years of age being sexually assaulted. The 49-year-old had a small collection of indecent images on his mobile, together with fantasy stories detailing child abuse.

However, after hearing Bower had lost everything as a result of his conviction, a judge stepped short of jailing him – instead imposing a community order.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court police had visited the paedophile councillor’s north Swindon home last June. They had received a tip-off that someone at the address had uploaded vile material to the internet, although no evidence was subsequently found to support that intelligence.

On Bower’s mobile phone, detectives found a short film in the worst category, another short clip in the middle band and six images in the lower range.

He said, though not the subject of any charges, they also found a number of fantasy stories talking about child abuse on his devices.

"Once these were examined the defendant was interviewed. He admitted that he knew what indecent images of children were," Mr Meeke said.

"He accepted that he was the account holder and he said that he was vehemently opposed to child pornography because someone he knew had been raped at a young age and he would never let anyone hurt children.

"He accepted he had indulged in fantasy chat about child sex abuse. He couldn't remember how he received the images of child sexual abuse, he assumed it must have been through some sort of private messages. He accepted there would be some. He knew it was wrong and he apologised for it."

Bower, formerly of Oakhurst, but now living in Southsea, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children.

Emma Handslip, defending, said probation officers had assessed him as being a low risk of reoffending.

Bower had not had access to his children since last year and he no longer has a partner or his old job. Since his arrest she said he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and also made an attempt on his life.

"It is a man who has essentially lost everything," she said,

Imposing a three-year community order, Judge Peter Crabtree said: "It needs to be clear, if it isn't clear, this is a course I am taking which is a direct alternative to an immediate custodial sentence."

He pointed out that there was a relatively low number of images recovered by the police and probation believe he can be managed and rehabilitated in the community.

Bower must abide by a sex offenders’ programme as directed, do 100 hours of unpaid work and 15 days of rehabilitation days and abide by a sexual harm prevention order.

He served as a Haydon Wick parish councillor from 2015 to July 2018, when he stepped down. He had served as vice-chairman of the council and subsequently as chairman of the planning committee.

Bower welcomed a parish revamp of children’s play areas in late 2016, telling the Adver it showed what the council could do for the community.

In May 2017, he welcomed the prospect of faster broadband speeds as BT Openreach began installing new cables in north Swindon following a residents’ campaign.

Later that year, he was quoted in the Adver grilling Wiltshire’s police commissioner on the perceived lack of response from police in the face of gang violence in Haydon Wick. Residents were patrolling the streets because they felt police were “inept and incompetent”.

Linda Brown, parish chairman said: "At no point in carrying out his parish duties had Damon reason to be alone with children. Whilst he was a councillor he gave us no cause for concern."

However, the sentence was welcomed by the NSPCC. A south west spokesman said: “The children in these abhorrent images and videos are victims of abuse and may have suffered greatly in order for them to be created.

“With every click, upload and share, these victims are being re-abused and more needs to be done to stifle this vile trade at its source.”