A FORMER trainee priest from Johnstone has been convicted of storing thousands of indecent images of children on his home computer. James Kennedy grew up in the Renfrewshire town and trained for the priesthood before deciding to start a family and moving to the West Midlands.

The court heard a claim from him that he had "no sexual interest" in children, but the judge told him: "I find that impossible to accept."

The disgraced 48-year-old, now unemployed, worked as a supply teacher and tutor for disruptive pupils excluded from secondary schools and was also a registered FA football coach.

Kennedy was also carving out a career as a stand-up comic, playing gigs at clubs around the country.

Due to appear at the Birmingham Comedy Festival two weeks ago, he was pulled from the bill when news of his trial, at Wolverhampton Crown Court on September 22, came to light.

Police found more than 4,500 images of children on a computer and memory stick during a raid on Kennedy's house in Wakes Close, Willenhall.

During his trial, prosecutor David Lees told the court that more than 300 images could be classified as falling into the two worst categories.

Kennedy had been exchanging some of the images online with up to six people, said Mr Lees.

Kennedy, who claimed to be suffering from depression, later told police he had "no sexual interest" in children but Judge Robin Onions said: "I find that impossible to accept."

Lewis Perry, defending, said Kennedy was a "good man of exemplary character within the community" who had been driven to commit the crime through loneliness following the break-up of his relationship.

Kennedy pleaded guilty to five offences involving the possession of more than 4,500 indecent images of children, two of possessing indecent moving images and two of distributing indecent images of children.

He was given a three-year community order on condition that he completes an intensive sex offender group work programme, and ordered to pay �340 costs.

He was also banned from working with children for life.

The comedy venue he was to appear at, the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham, is a registered charity providing support for vulnerable children and adults.

Colin Mearns, the promoter of the comedy event, made the decision to cancel Kennedy's performance.

He said: "I got in touch with him as I wanted to tell him I was going to pull him from the show.

"He didn't respond when I asked him about the court case. He just said he couldn't do the gig because he was in Scotland, caring for his sick mother.

"It certainly wouldn't have been appropriate for him to perform."

The Gazette made several attempts to contact Kennedy, however he was unavailable for comment.

* Did you know Kennedy when he was living in Johnstone? Contact our reporters on 0141-435-8869 ore email editorial@the-gazette.co.uk