A PERVERT who downloaded hundreds of pictures and videos of young children has been spared jail after a judge decided the public would be better protected by him being managed in the community.

Bolton Crown Court heard how police found the indecent pictures after raiding 64-year-old Ernest Holme's then home in Wilton Street, Bolton, on October 23, 2018.

Joshua Bowker, prosecuting, said electronic devices were seized and indecent images were found on two laptops, two computer towers and a memory card.

At total of 283 of the most serious category A images, including 129 videos were discovered as well as 219 in category B which included 57 videos and 982 category C images including 21 videos.

Investigators also found an illegal extreme pornographic moving image along with 14 other prohibited images of children.

Holme had been using a special peer to peer software application which allows file sharing between users.

"The age range of the children in the images is between six and 17-years-old," said Mr Bowker.

After examining the computers police interviewed Holme.

"He admitted accessing the images but said he had done so through a need to investigate it before accepting he had done a very stupid thing," said Mr Bowker.

Holme, now of Pinfold Close, Westhoughton, has no previous convictions and pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children, possession of an extreme pornographic image and possessing 14 prohibited images of a child.

All the offences were committed between February 1, 2017 and October 23, 2018.

Mark Friend, defending, said: "It was clearly a dark time in his life.

"There has been no further offending by the defendant.

"He is a man of hitherto good character and the loss of that good character is a burden which weighs heavy upon his shoulders but has been brought on wholly as a consequence of his own actions.

"He accepts that his behaviour, over the course of those months, was entirely inappropriate."

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh told Holme that, although his crime deserved a prison sentence, any period in jail would be short and the public could be better protected by him being supervised in the community for several years.

Holme was given a three year community sentence during which he will have to participate in 60 days of rehabilitation activities. He was put on the sex offenders' register and will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years.

Judge Walsh told Holme: "These are not victimless crimes. Images showing abuse of children show abuse of real children.

"Those who download and use such images feed the trade in such noxious images."