A Leamington man who was arrested for downloading upsetting images of young children being sexually abused confessed to the police that he had also sent some images to other people.
But Michael McKenzie escaped being jailed after a judge heard that officers who examined his computer could not say what category of seriousness those images were in.
McKenzie, 53, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to three charges of possessing indecent images of children and one of distributing them.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison suspended for two years, with a rehabilitation activity, and was ordered to do 220 hours of unpaid work and to pay £550 costs.
In addition, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones, who described McKenzie as having ‘a very dark and twisted side,’ ordered him to register as a sex offender for ten years.
Prosecutor Angus Robertson said that in May last year the police went to McKenzie’s home at the time in Sadler Road, Radford, Coventry, and seized various computer devices.
On four of them they subsequently discovered more than 260 indecent images of children which, after first answering ‘no comment,’ he admitted downloading from a website.
Mr Robertson said the worst of the images were 68 movies and 88 stills in category A, showing children being subjected to penetrative sex acts.
And, reading the descriptions prepared by the officers, Judge Griffith-Jones observed: “There are some very, very bad movies. There is one particularly upsetting one, a five-year-old boy who doesn’t want something to happen.
“The inference is it has happened to him before, and he doesn’t want it to happen again. It is a really upsetting idea that the little chap knew what was going to happen because it had happened before.
“Then there is a very upsetting one involving a two-year-old.”
Mr Robertson said that during his interview McKenzie had volunteered that he had sent images of children aged between two and 11 to other people.
Attempts were made to examine the devices to establish what had been sent and which category of seriousness they were in, but that had been unsuccessful.
The judge said he would therefore have to give McKenzie the benefit of the doubt and deal with him on the basis that they were in the lowest category.
Delroy Henry, defending, said: “It is disgusting, and he is disgusted with himself. That is probably all he can add. He is ashamed, but at least he had the good sense to admit it from the outset.
“That distribution takes it beyond the realm that is often the blight of this court, and makes the sentencing exercise more difficult. It’s not just the isolated viewing of this disgusting material, it’s the dissemination of it.”
Judge Griffith-Jones commented: “It is a really twisted mind to find anything erotic in those. He’s got a very dark and twisted side.”
Mr Henry said McKenzie, who ‘had become lost in that dark world,’ could not complain if he was sent to custody, but pointed out he has sought help from the Lucy Faithful Foundation, which works with sex offenders.
And he argued: “To suspend the sentence might allow that work to bear fruit.”
Judge Griffith-Jones told McKenzie: “You have admitted these shameful offences. In addition to feeling ashamed, you should feel surprised that you have sunk so far into a twisted, pernicious activity that pictures like this should be arousing.
“They are beyond degrading. I have come within an ace of making this an immediate sentence, if only to demonstrate the revulsion people feel that you are assisting a market that leads to people abusing little children in this way.
“It cannot be proved what you were distributing. Some people would say it’s more likely it’s the horrible ones, but it is fair to give you the benefit of the doubt.”