A SEX offender who was caught with indecent images of child abuse blamed his behaviour on the Covid lockdowns.

Barry McLean dodged a jail term after saying the sick pics had ended up on his phone as a result of him making contact with people through dating and social media apps.

McLean was caught with the sick images on his mobile at Sloan Street in Ayr between February 18 and March 26, 2021.

The 40-year-old appeared in court for sentencing on April 21 after pleading guilty to a charge of possessing images of sexual abuse of children.

A not guilty plea to a second charge, of making or downloading the images, was accepted by prosecutors.

Sentence was deferred until the April 21 hearing to give social workers time to prepare a background report and risk assessment on McLean, now of Dalmarnock Road in Glasgow.

McLean’s solicitor told Sheriff Shirley Foran her client was now studying film-making at university in Glasgow.

She said: “Mr McLean explained that it took place at a time he had problems with his mental health and isolation due to lockdown.

“He took to messaging platforms like Grindr and Telegram for social interaction. This social interaction led to the offence being committed.

“He didn’t set out to intentionally procure indecent images from various individuals.

“He now understands the victims in the images suffered mental and physical distress. He completely understands that.

“He has the support of his parents and sibling. He has taken steps to better understand his mental health.

“He has stopped using illicit substances and stopped taking cocaine.

“He had taken steps to delete images, but regretfully two remained on his device.”

Sheriff Foran, pointing out the offence involved “images of young vulnerable children”, told McLean that listening to the details of the case had been “a very difficult task”.

She said: “While this offence could attract custody I’m satisfied you can be dealt with safely with a community payback order.”

McLean was placed under supervision for three years and will have to take part in the Moving Forward, Making Changes programme, which aims to address the behaviour of sex offenders.

He was also barred from having any unsupervised contact with under-18s, except inadvertently, for the length of the order, with Sheriff Foran adding: “That should act as additional protection.”