A FORMER soldier who volunteered to support the Ukraine war effort has been prosecuted after police discovered he had a collection of extreme pornography and indecent cartoons of children.

Michael Lee, 27, who was one of the first former British servicemen to volunteer to fight in the war, has been put on the Sex Offender Register after he pleaded guilty to several indecent image offences.

All involved cartoons, Carlisle Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Brendan Burke said that the offences - which were committed over a six year period - came to light when police searched the defendant’s address in Workington and seized two digital devices.

Both contained illegal indecent child images. Lee, whose address is now Westminster Street, Gateshead, admitted the following offences:

  • Possessing 317 extreme pornographic images, involving bestiality.
  • Downloading indecent child images – all of them cartoons, including 12 which were the worst Category, A; 7 which were Category B; and 32 which were Category C.
  • And possessing a prohibited image of a child.

Kim Whittlestone, defending, handed the court a character reference from the Ukrainian platoon commander who served with Lee.

One of the first foreigners to volunteer for the war effort, Lee had uses his own military experience to help train other recruits to “Nato standard” and had taken part in operations. He was well-liked by his comrades.

“He’s been an industrious young man," said Miss Whittlestone.

“This defendant had a very difficult upbringing. He had alcoholic parents and there was [Social Services] intervention.” Lee had begun consuming alcohol when he was 13. Drinking heavily, he had described himself as a “functioning alcoholic.”

The barrister said: “Since July of last year, he’s been totally alcohol free. He volunteered in Ukraine and, in essence, says that saved him.”

Volunteering had given him focus, helping him to stop drinking.

Miss Whittlestone said Lee, like many such offenders when first confronted by such offending, had denied having a sexual interest in children. “He understands that is unrealistic,” said the barrister.

He was resolved to apply himself to the proposed sexual offender treatment programme.

Judge Nicholas Barker noted the prolonged period of the offending, which happened between November 2015, and March, 2021. But it was right to take into account the defendant’s challenging upbringing and his volunteering in Ukraine.

Lee was the “very example” of a defendant suitable for an alternative sentence to custody, focused on rehabilitation, said the judge. 

Judge Barker imposed a three-year community order, with 25 rehabilitation activity days. Lee must take part in the Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

Lee will be on the Sex Offender Register for five years. As punishment, he must complete 120 hours of unpaid work.