A bus driver who took photos of young boys after grooming them with football memorabilia has avoided jail for possessing child abuse images.
Police were alerted to Ronald Neill, 57, by a concerned parent whose son was given a personalised gift on the Go-Ahead London service in east London.
Neill would ask youngsters for their names and offer signed pictures of a football team, mugs, water bottles, keyrings, mouse mats and fridge magnets.
He then asked boys to pose for photos that were not indecent, a court heard.
Officers from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime arrested Neill at his home in Romford, east London on suspicion of grooming in August.
During a search, print-outs of indecent images of children were found in his bedroom.
On his home computer and mobile, further abuse images graded from the most serious category A to B were discovered.
In police custody, Neill admitted in interview to making and downloading the illegal material.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of making indecent images of children during a first hearing at North East London Magistrates’ Court on August 25.
At Snaresbrook Crown Court today, Neill was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
He was also made subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order restricting his contact with children and access to the internet.
Detective Constable Dec Wilson, of the Modern Slavery Child Exploitation team, said: “Neill admitted to having a sexual interest in children, while working in a job that brought him into regular contact with young people.
“His buying of gifts for the boys he met on the bus was a clear sign of grooming.
“I would like to thank the families who gave us information about Neill’s behaviour to support this prosecution, and the sexual harm order he now has to abide by or face further prosecution.
“We would urge any parent or carer who is aware that their child has had recent contact with Neill, or received gifts from him, to come forward and speak to officers.”
A spokesman for Go-Ahead London said Neill’s colleagues were “shocked and appalled at recent events, which came as an unpleasant surprise”. He was immediately suspended and later sacked.
The spokesman added: “Mr Neill was employed by Go-Ahead London as a bus driver between February 2018 and August 2020.
“The company operates a pre-employment screening process and this, along with his subsequent work record, highlighted no issues.
“The court hearing confirmed that Mr Neill had no previous charges or convictions related to the matter for which he was subsequently convicted – possession of indecent images.
“The company can confirm that Mr Neill did not drive a bus in service after the matter was first reported to us by Transport for London. He was promptly suspended from duty and dismissed.
“Upon being notified of inappropriate behaviour allegations, the company quickly contacted the Traffic Commissioner’s office.
“All those who worked with Mr Neill are shocked and appalled at recent events, which came as an unpleasant surprise.”
Anyone with information on Neill can contact police on 101, quoting Operation Foundation, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.