A PAEDOPHILE who downloaded hundreds of images of children has been ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

Bolton Crown Court heard how when police raided Paul Harrison's home they found multiple laptops and hard drives.

Hayley Bennett, prosecuting via telephone to court due to the coronavirus crisis, told how officers, with a warrant, visited 48-year-old Mr Harrison's house in Westhoughton after receiving intelligence that a person living there had uploaded indecent images of children to the internet.

She said: "The defendant was informed that he was under arrest on suspicion of possession of indecent images and he replied to the caution by making several comments including, 'there's a lot'."

A laptop and mobile phone were found beside a bed, as well as another laptop behind the headboard. Four hard drives plus a pen drive and mobile phone were recovered from the kitchen and another laptop and hard drive were discovered in the living room.

The equipment was examined and 140 of the most serious category A indecent images of children were found along with 137 category B images and 937 category C images.

Officers also came across chat logs of sexual conversations Harrison had been having with apparently under age girls.

"Essentially the defendant is asking if this person is 18 and when they express that they are 14, he asks for more pics," said Miss Bennett.

In another conversation he asked a girl if she was aged 16 and engaged in sexual chat with her.

When searching the internet Harrison, of Church Street, Westhoughton, had used terms such as "under age video", 11-year-old fox" and "young teen sex".

On a mobile phone were SMS messages including comments about having sex with a 14-year-old.

Mr Bennett added that there was also a programme installed designed to permanently delete data but it is not known if Harrison had actually used it.

Harrison pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children.

Martin Pizzey, defending, stressed that the offences were discovered in October 2017 and Harrison had immediately asked for help.

"He feels terribly ashamed, embarrassed and very upset," said Mr Pizzey. "He is full of remorse and regret."

He added that Harrison, who has a long term partner standing by him, has now completely abstained from drink.

"He does not use it as an excuse but he has made the link with consumption of alcohol, It was a factor in his behaviour," said Mr Pizzey.

Judge Graeme Smith sentenced Harrison to a community order for 18 months with 25 days of rehabilitation activities as well as the unpaid work.

He was also placed on the sex offenders' register and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years.

Judge Smith told Harrison: "You now know what you didn't appreciate at the time — that these are images of real children suffering real and life-changing abuse.

"And a market exists for that sort of pornography because people like yourself, for various reasons, watch it.

"It is an epidemic, one of a very different type than the medical one we are currently suffering, but one with just as serious and life changing consequences.

"Your story is very similar to those which we see almost every day in this court of people who don't set out with an intention of doing this, but gradually, by combination of life circumstances and delving into ever more extreme pornography, end up there without really realising the road that they have gone down."

The court heard that Harrison has taken steps to address his behaviour and the probation service assessed him as being at low risk of reoffending.