A SWORD swallowing contortionist has escaped a prison sentence after handing police a USB stick which led to his own arrest.
Magician Nigel Hardman pleaded guilty to possessing scores of indecent images of teenage girls and appeared at Preston Crown Court to be sentenced.
But the convicted benefits cheat – who once won a talent show on Channel 4’s Big Breakfast – will not be going to prison after the court heard there was a better chance of rehabilitating him if he reamained on the outside.
Hardman, 46, formerly of Lychgate, Preston, believed he was helping officers to investigate alleged drug dealing in the local community when he handed over the memory stick containing CCTV footage from outside his home.
But when the footage was viewed it emerged Hardman had also handed over his stash of 93 indecent images, covering the full spectrum of severity under a new classification system.
First he claimed the images were not his and tried to blame his ex-wife but he later admitted he had used search terms such as “schoolgirl” to find the pornography.
It later emerged he had chatted to a teenager online with an element of “grooming” but he has not been charged in relation to that matter,
Recorder Nicholas Clarke, sentencing, told him: “There are worrying signs, not only in the computer chat that was discovered but also in your attitude that really need to be addressed in order to prevent serious harm being caused by you in the future.”
He handed Hardman a nine month sentence suspended for two years, with a four month curfew from 8pm to 6am. He must undertake an internet sex offenders treatment program, was handed a 10 year sex offenders prevention order and must sign on the sex offenders register for five years.