A gay man from Northern Ireland wrongfully accused of owning child pornography is coming forward about his story, saying police ruined his life because they did not know the gay slang word "twink," the British newspaper the Mirror reports.

Mike Whitla, a former social worker from the Northern Irish town of Bangor in County Down, was arrested in 2013 under the suspicion of making and owning child porn. Police claimed he had 71 images ranging in seriousness from grade one to grade five - grade five images usually involve the abuse of babies.

Whitla, 34, was found not guilty earlier this month of 15 charges. A forensic investigator searched his computer files and found he could not be guilty and the prosecution failed to offer any evidence against him. The judge directed the jury to return a 'not guilty' verdict on each charge.

"Today I'm free but I'm still in limbo. My life has been ruined," he told Belfast Live.

Nevertheless, Whitla said the incident could have been avoided.

"I think if one of the officers who arrested me had been a gay man, I'd never have been put through this nightmare' but they live in a different social world to me," he said.

Whitla said the situation cost him his job as a social worker, where he helped children in need, and also forced him to come out, pushing him into a depression where he tried to commit suicide on two occasions.

"My reputation is ruined. If you type my name into Google, the first few entries brand me a pervert and a fiend," he said.

Police raided Whitla's home in October 2013 with a warrant after they received a complaint. Authorities searched through his furniture and took his computer, phones and his iPad. It was reported that while searching for gay porn online, pop-ups were triggered and automatically saved in the computer's system and the police mistook it for child porn.

"My entire working life had been dedicated to protecting and helping young people who weren't as fortunate as me," Whitla said. "So when I was accused of having indecent images of children, I nearly collapsed. Not only is that not part of my personality, the very essence of my career is about protecting people, not hurting them or putting them at risk."

While at the police station, Whitla asked to the see the images in question after an official seemed shocked at the pictures. He was eventually shown a picture of a semi-naked young man. Whitla said he was relieved and told officers it was a picture of a "twink," which Urban Dictionary defines as, "an attractive, boyish-looking, young gay man. The stereotypical twink is 18-22, slender with little or no body hair, often blonde...A twink is the gay answer to the blonde bimbo cheerleader."

"The officers hadn't a clue what I was talking about," he told Belfast Live. "I said he looked about 24 and they laughed. They said the picture was of a 13-year-old boy and that I was going court where the jury would agree he was a child."

After trying to commit suicide, the LGBT group the Rainbow Project reached out to Whitla and set up a presentation about gay slang for authorities.

Judge Grant at Downpatrick Crown Court told Whitla he was "free to go without a stain on his character" on April 28.

"I still support rigorous police investigations and I really can't complain about the PSNI doing their job in the interests of child safety," Whitla said. "But they need to be educated about gay communities and the language we use. It could have prevented my ruination and saved them an awful lot of time, effort and money taking an innocent man to court."

From our media partner EDGE


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