Former Kingston Council leader Derek Osbourne has admitted possessing more than 5,000 indecent images of children.

The 59-year-old ex-Liberal Democrat leader pleaded guilty to 17 counts of making and distributing images at Southwark Crown Court today.

Osbourne was told by Recorder of Westminster Alistair McCreath that a prison sentence was a "virtual certainty".

The prosecution said Osbourne possessed images of children as young as three-years-old being raped or subjected to sexual violence.

The charges included making 50 level five images – the most extreme category possible – as well as having 868 images of sexual activity involving children.

Another charge involved having images of bestiality.

Prosecutor Peter Zinner said: "There was a substantial amount of indecent images of children.
In total there were approximately 5,000 images, of which 868 were at level four and 50 level five.

"Some of the material depicts children as young as three being subjected to acts of rape or serious sexual violence.

"There was some stomach churning material of adults engaged in sexual activities with animals, a total of 152 [images].

"The case is significantly aggravated by virtue of the fact material was shared with or distributed to other paedophiles."

Michael Neofytou, defending, said Osbourne had been receiving psycho-sexual counselling, and was working with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, an Epsom charity working with sex offenders to prevent child abuse.

Osbourne, wearing a dark blue suit and pink shirt, showed no emotion as he admitted the charges.

He was given bail until October 29, to allow time for the probation service to draw up pre-sentence reports.

But judge Alistair McCreath said he did not want to give Osbourne "false hope" that he would be spared prison.

He said: "People who commit the sort of offences you committed cannot be properly sentenced without knowing something about them, what sort of danger, if any, they present.

"In order to perform a fully informed sentencing exercise, I'm ordering a report.

"You will come back in four weeks' time, October 29 - I reserve the case for myself.

"My mind will be open, but that said, I have to give you the firmest of warnings that the position you are in, having committed these offences in the volume you have done, it makes it a virtual certainty that a prison sentence will follow.

"By giving you bail I'm giving you no indication of what's going to happen.

"I am at pains not to give you any false impression and, above all, not to give you any false hope."

Osbourne left the court shortly after the hearing with his legal team, declining to answer questions from waiting reporters.

The 'making' charge relates to 'causing an indecent photograph of a child to exist on a computer screen'. According to the law, a person who downloads images on to disc or who prints them off is making them.

Sentencing guidelines say that where someone has distributed or shown level four or five images the sentencing range is two to five years custody.

He is expected to be sentenced in four weeks.

"Secret life very different than public image"

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Keith Braithwaite said "Derek Osbourne made and distributed indecent images of children. His secret life was very different than the public image he portrayed.

"His conviction should act as a reminder that we will pursue anyone who makes, distributes or possesses indecent images of children.

"His actions have inevitably contributed to the destruction of many victims' childhoods."

Police seized a laptop and other items from his house after executing a search warrant based on intelligence received.

They said Osbourne's offences did not relate to his role at the council.

"Held in high esteem by both political friends and enemies"

Osbourne was arrested at his home in New Malden on June 11, and resigned from the Lib Dems and the council leadership the following day.

His successor Liz Green said: "Colleagues and acquaintances have expressed shock and sadness to me about Derek who was held in high esteem by many of us across the political divide. 

"The news of his arrest for serious sex charges back in June came as a bolt out of the blue to all of us. We have all moved on significantly since his arrest.

“My thoughts are with all the children that have been exploited in the making of child pornography and I support more Government funding to policing, victim support and child protection teams."