Edinburgh crime: University of Edinburgh student escapes jail after being found with child abuse images

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Edinburgh student caught with nearly a quarter of a million child abuse images and videos

A university student has escaped a jail sentence despite being caught with close to 250,000 child abuse images and videos.

Cheng Xia was found to have downloaded the huge amount of indecent images of children including vile pictures depicting children as young as four-years-old being sexually abused by adults. Xia - who is studying for a PHD in Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh - appeared for sentencing at the city’s sheriff court today, Wednesday, November 29, after previously pleading guilty to possessing the images over a near six year period.

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Solicitor George Henry, defending, said his client was engaging with the Stop It Now organisation and had been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Mr Henry previously told the court 24-year-old Xia’s university studies are currently on hold due to his arrest in November last year.

Cheng Xia (24) Outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court.Cheng Xia (24) Outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
Cheng Xia (24) Outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Sheriff Robert Fife said the total amount of images found was an “extraordinary number” but said the amount of Category A pictures was relatively low.

The sheriff added: “The figure of six years over which you were possessing indecent images is a cause for real concern. However I am persuaded given your lack of record there is an alternative to a custodial sentence.”

Sheriff Fife acknowledged Xia had sought out treatment for his “addictive behaviour” and placed him on a supervision order for two years and ordered him to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work. Xia, of Newington, Edinburgh, was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years.

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The court was told the social work report stated Xia’s autism diagnosis could have contributed to his “highly curated and separated into folders” collection of child sex abuse images.

Previously fiscal depute Ross Price told the court policed raided Xia’s flat on November 25 last year. Several devices were seized and it was discovered the chemistry student had downloaded a total of 234,039 indecent images of children and 1531 videos.

The court heard 202 images and seven films were rated at Category A - the most depraved end of the scale - along with 1015 pictures and 21 videos at Category B. The Category C files showed he had downloaded 232, 872 images and 1503 videos depicting child abuse.

Xia pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing indecent images of children at his home address between January 1, 2017 and November 25 last year.