A shamed author and former Aberdeen journalist caught with indecent images of children told a court he was suffering from “mental scrambling” when he downloaded them.
Norman Harper, who has been placed on the sex offenders register for 18 months, claimed family crisis had led him to search for illicit images.
More than 30 images were found on the 60-year-old’s home near Alford following a raid.
Harper, who once worked with the Press and Journal, was snared after police received intelligence from a national child abuse prevention agency.
Sheriff William Summers told Harper he had pleaded guilty to serious offences.
“These were not victimless crimes,” the sheriff said.
“Every child that featured in the images found on your computer is a victim of abuse and anyone who downloads these images encourages the vile trade in their manufacture.
Harper – who had no previous convictions – presented character references from friends and family during his appearance at Aberdeen Sheriff Court in an effort to show the “esteem” in which he was held by others.
His solicitor told the court: “He was suffering from mental scrambling at the time of the offences as he struggled through various family crisis.
“He does not seek to hide behind this, but that was his state of mind at the time.”
Harper, of Stronach, Tullynessle, accepted he had made indecent images of children between November 12 and December 3, 2014 and also admitted possessing indecent images between November 12, 2014 and January 20, 2017.
He said he’d taken steps to avoid re-offending, including self-referring to the Stop it Now programme.
Sheriff Summers made Harper subject to a community payback order as an alternative to custody and ordered him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
He will also be under the supervision of social workers for the next 18 months and will be on the sex offenders register throughout that period.