A Dufftown man caught with indecent images of children on his mobile phone had sent a thumbs-up emoji to one when it was sent to him in a WhatsApp chat with other paedophiles.
Sergio Costa, 41, had images of children aged from three to 14, and two videos showing children aged between 10 and 14.
The files ranged from category A – the most severe – to category C.
Costa appeared at Inverness Sheriff Court to admit to a single charge of taking, permitting to be taken or making indecent images of children, relating to receiving or accessing the content between January 23 and August 7 of 2020.
Fiscal depute Robert Weir told the court that in August last year police had received intelligence that credentials linked to the accused had been used to upload indecent images of children to the internet.
As a result, a search warrant was granted for his Dufftown home.
Police search found second phone
He said the accused answered the door and let officers into the property.
He handed over a Samsung Galaxy 7 mobile phone, but a search of the property uncovered a second mobile, a Samsung Galaxy 9, for which Costa refused to provide an access PIN.
“Cybercrime attended at the locus and provided a preliminary examination of the Samsung Galaxy S9, managing to bypass the security on the handset,” Mr Weir told the court.
“The Samsung Galaxy S9 was attributed to the accused and was found to contain 15 indecent images of children ranging from category A through to C.”
Further evaluation of Costa’s devices uncovered more indecent images, with the vile content featuring boys and girls aged between three and 13.
There were also two video files featuring girls aged between 10 and 14.
Chat logs reveal thumbs-up response
A number of the images were saved in locations associated with the messaging service WhatsApp, including in chat logs.
“It appeared the accused – user Costa – had not shared any of these images,” Mr Weir said, adding: “These chat logs showed evidence of other WhatsApp users sharing indecent images of children.
“The accused did respond to one of those with a thumbs-up image.”
Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald deferred sentencing for the production of a criminal justice social work report and an assessment for the Moving Forward, Making Changes programme for sex offenders.
Solicitor David Paterson reserved his comments in mitigation for the sentencing hearing.
Costa, of Hillside Ave, Dufftown, was placed on the sex offenders register with immediate effect.