A Conservative Party press officer and campaigns manager has admitted distributing indecent images of children.
Mark Lerigo, 49, had been working as a press officer for the Midlands as recently as June 8, but today (July 24) pleaded guilty to all eight child sex abuse offences at Warwick Crown Court.
He was suspended by the Conservative Party after being charged following an inquiry by the National Crime Agency, which revealed he had an iPad containing 1,005 illegal images.
These included 146 category A – the most serious level – showing abuse pictures of children, and 258 images of extreme pornography.
He also had a laptop which contained evidence of a total of 414 illegal images – including 59 category A images.
The NCA said it discovered a WhatsApp chat with another offender discussing the sexual abuse of children, and he was arrested in November 2018.
Lerigo, of William Bristow Road in Coventry, admitted two counts of distributing indecent images of children and three counts of making indecent images of children.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of possessing extreme pornography involving animals, one of possessing prohibited images of children, and one of publishing an obscene article.
Judge Anthony Potter granted him unconditional bail before his sentencing hearing at the same court on August 21.
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The Conservative Party confirmed last month that Lerigo had been suspended from the party with immediate effect, pending the outcome of judicial proceedings.
Graham Ellis, NCA operations manager, said: “Offenders who view indecent images are fuelling more and more sexual abuse of children.
“Every time an abuse image is shared or viewed the child is revictimised.
“Child sexual abuse is a priority threat for the NCA.
“It doesn’t matter what walk of life an offender is from, we will do everything in our power to catch them.”
A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “By accessing and distributing this terrible content, Lerigo was helping to sustain a trade that thrives on children’s suffering.
“Children often endure appalling abuse for these kind of images and videos to be created.
“But law enforcement cannot solve this problem alone – big tech must be made to use their expertise and resources to quickly remove them from their platforms and identify who put them there in the first place.”