Lee Wilding, 41, from Gorman Street in Springfield, was handed a 16-month suspended custodial sentence after pleading guilty to three charges of “making” indecent images of children and an extra eight-month suspended sentence for possessing an “extreme pornographic” photo of an animal.
The court heard how police found 3,992 images of children aged between five months and 14 years old downloaded to seven devices owned by Wilding.
All of the images, bar the pornographic one involving an animal, had been deleted prior to his arrest.
Prosecutor James Preece told Judge Elliot Knopf at Bolton Crown Court, how software designed to delete and conceal internet history was also discovered when investigators searched the devices.
The charges were brought for photographs and videos downloaded between May 2015 and February 2017, however Wilding disputed the dates claiming that he stopped looking at the images in November 2016.
Mr Preece outlined a number of “aggravating factors” including the fact that 17 of the images were videos. He also explained that of the 3,993 photographs, 799 fell into the most serious category.
“The first (aggravating factor) is the age of the children,” he said. “The estimated age range is as low as five months and the majority were between five and 10 years old.”
In a disturbing addition from the prosecution, police also found that among the material was the image of young girl aged between four and six years old who appeared to be in “pain or distress”.
“She appeared to be distressed and crying,” said Mr Preece.
The prosecutor also asked Judge Knopf to take into account the attempt that had been made by Wilding to hide the images by downloading software which would delete and hide traces of photographs or incriminating internet history.
In his defence, Fiona McNeill told the court that Wilding had come to his own realisation that what he was doing was wrong, and that he had stopped downloading the images.
“In November 2016 he put a stop to this,” she said. “Not in an effort to hide from his position or to hide from authorities, but in an effort to stop himself engaging in this behaviour.
“He understands the level of seriousness. This is a case where the defendant need not lose his liberty immediately.
“He is very conscious that he has brought shame not only upon himself but on his family as a whole. He recognises very clearly even before any comments or observations, that his behaviour perpetuates the abuse of children.”
Judge Knopf explained that the case was “difficult” to sentence and that he wanted the matter dealt with in a way that would “reduce” the likelihood of a repeat offence, “rather than leave it untreated”.
On top of the suspended sentence Wilding was given 40 days of rehabilitation activity requirement, a six-month curfew requiring him to be at home between 7pm and 5am each night and he has been given an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
He has also signed the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and was ordered to pay costs of £340.