A sacked PSNI officer has been jailed over more than 16,000 indecent images of children – discovered while he was being investigated over explicit messages sent to women while on duty.

Robert Jason Ainscough, 34 and originally from Dublin - but whose address was given as care of Lurgan PSNI station - pleaded guilty to the charges against him.

The former constable faced two separate indictments which included six counts of misconduct in public office on one and 13 charges of making indecent images of children on the other.

All the offences were committed between February 2014 and September 2016.

At Craigavon Crown Court on Monday, Ainscough was handed a nine-month sentence for misconduct and four-and-a-half months for the indecent images and videos.

Judge Roseanne McCormick QC ordered them to be served consecutively, half in jail and half under supervised licence conditions.

In addition, she ordered Ainscough to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years, banned him from working with children, and also imposed a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

The court heard that, in relation to the misconduct charges, Ainscough exchanged “highly sexually explicit” messages, including texts, photos and videos, with three different women while on duty.

In addition, Ainscough - who was a constable for eight years before being dismissed as a result of the charges - used the police computer to access the file on one of the women which would have made clear to him her “particular vulnerabilities”.

The court heard how the offences were brought to light in September 2016 when one of the women sent messages she had received from Ainscough to the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page.

“The photos indicated a male in full police uniform exposing his penis,” a prosecution lawyer said.

The lawyer added that while the women declined to make a statement of formal complaint, she allowed investigating officers to take screen shots of her phone.

Ainscough was arrested and his phone seized for examination.

The court heard that explicit photos and videos had been taken by Ainscough in the toilets of Banbridge and Lurgan PSNI stations while he was in full uniform.

The court further heard that “all the texting was consensual” and none of the women had filed formal complaints, and that Ainscough had not ignored or failed in his duties as a police officer.

However, during the misconduct investigation, police seized computer hard drives and memory sticks from Ainscough’s home.

The court heard that detectives then found a total of 16,681 indecent images of children spread across 10 devices.

Ainscough’s defence QC conceded that while “it’s his own fault”, his client had “effectively lost everything”.

He told the court: “He has lost his career, he has lost his good character, he has lost the respect that he had ... He has lost out on every front imaginable.”

The lawyer added that Ainscough’s mental health had spiralled downwards to such an extent that there had been “suicidal ideations”.

He further told the court that the month that Ainscough had spent in jail on remand before getting bail had been entirely spent “alone, in solitary confinement”.

Judge McCormick told Ainscough his offences indicated a “sustained pattern of offending” and revealed the various reports compiled assessed him as “high likelihood of reoffending” as he has personality traits of impulsive behaviour and risk-taking coupled with minimising his offences.

“He is indeed a disgraced man,” the judge said, adding it was “not surprising” that probation recommended Ainscough undertake programs involving “consequential thinking skills” while on licence.