Leeds council chief condemns jailed ex-mayor's 'despicable' crimes

LEEDS City Council leader Coun Judith Blake has condemned ex-mayor Neil Taggart's "despicable" crimes after he was jailed over indecent images of children.

Neil Taggart pictured in 2004 during his year as Lord Mayor of Leeds.
Neil Taggart pictured in 2004 during his year as Lord Mayor of Leeds.

Former Leeds Mayor Neil Taggart was jailed for 32 months today (Tues July 4) after admitting a string of offences.

Police armed with a search warrant raided his home in Marlowe Crescent, Garforth, on September 23 last year while he was on holiday abroad with his family.

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Computer equipment was seized including a desktop computer, hard drives and USB memory sticks.

Police discovered a total of 36,003 indecent images and videos of children including 5,488 at category A - the most serious level.

Taggart, who served as a Leeds City councillor between 1980 and 2014, was Lord Mayor of Leeds in 2003/04 and served as chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority between 1998 and 2003.

After today's sentencing hearing, Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake, said: “I condemn these despicable crimes in the strongest possible terms.”

Mark Peel, independent chair of Leeds Safeguarding Children Board said: “Regardless of any pervious or current official role a person may have, any form of child abuse is abhorrent and those who carry it out need to be brought to justice.”

Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, who led the West Yorkshire Police investigation, said after sentencing: “Offenders like Taggart, who seek out and distribute abusive images of children for the sexual gratification of themselves and others, play a significant role in the continuation of the appalling real-life abuse that these images capture.

The crimes he pleaded guilty to represent a high volume of images - many of the most serious kind - and cover a significant period of time. As someone who held a number of high-profile public positions during some of that time, he would have been well aware of how wrong his offending behaviour was and how it was completely against the standards of integrity and decency that the public would have rightly expected of him.

The court heard that some images featured both pubescent and pre-pubescent children being sexually abused by adults - including children under five being abused.

Police also found 30 extreme pornographic images depicting sexual activity between adults and animals.

Taggart admitted three charges of making indecent images of children, three charges of distributing indecent photographs of children, one charge of possessing prohibited images of children and one charge of possession of extreme pornographic images. The offences were committed between 2010 and 2016.

Mitigating, Stephen Wood said: “The defendant’s health is not good. He has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.”

Mr Wood added: “This is a person who has given over 30 years of public service...These convictions utterly destroy the personal reputation that he had built up over those 30 plus years of service.”

Jailing Taggart for 32 months, judge Robin Mairs, said police had found a “library” of indecent images of children on Taggart’s computer equipment.

Judge Mairs told Taggart: “I accept that both your personal and public reputation, that at one time stood high in the city, now effectively lies in the gutter.”

The Labour Party suspended Neil Taggart in October 2016 when it became aware of the allegations he was facing.

The party announced in October 2013 that Taggart would not be the Labour candidate for the Bramley and Stanningley ward in the May 2014 elections.

Labour did not comment why it chose to deselect the long-serving councillor but, it was reported at the time, it came after “a difficult time in his personal life.” It was reported that he had been absent from many council meetings since the previous summer and had been fighting cancer.