A PAEDOPHILE who persuaded two underage brothers to have sex while he filmed them over the internet has been jailed for 10 years.

Thomas Morton, of Percy Street, Bury, targeted young boys across the UK and America, often posing online as an attractive teenage girl before encouraging them to send him images or perform sexual acts which he filmed.

Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard how Morton, 34, was part of a group of fellow paedophiles who would share the images and videos between them and offer advice to each other on how not to get caught.

Ben Lawrence, prosecuting, said Morton had appeared at Bolton Crown Court in 2013 after downloading more than 4,000 pornographic images of children but was handed a suspended sentence after probation services said he "did not provide a direct risk to children under 18".

He was found to have broken the terms of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order in 2016 when police officers seized his laptop containing over 1,000 indecent images of children.

Four years later, a total of 6,032 images - including 623 in the most severe category A - were found on Morton's devices after officers from GMP's Sexual Crime Unit executed a search warrant at his address on Tuesday, March 3 2020 following information that indecent images had been distributed at an address linked to Morton.

These images consisted of victims who Morton had been in direct contact with via his social media alias, and of other widely-shared images of children which he had received from other like-minded individuals.

One of the devices was a Samsung Galaxy phone which appeared as though there had been an attempt to snap the device in half prior to the police gaining entry.

The sheer extent of Morton's offending quickly became clear to investigators as substantial amounts of evidence repeatedly showed him befriending boys online with a view to grooming them for sexual gratification.

Morton also had multiple social media accounts a number of which were under the name of a 13-year-old girl and used a profile picture of a teenage girl taken from her Facebook profile.

Mr Lawrence described how Morton would use this persona to contact teenage boys and "encourage them to perform sexual acts".

"He made them believe they were communicating with an attractive teenage girl who was interested in them sexually and with whom they were exchanging sexual images on a private basis," said Mr Lawrence.

Morton had installed software enabling him to record the children performing sexual acts and would distributed these images to like-minded paedophiles.

"Evidence showed the group discussed targets and the sort of images they would like to obtain or the sort of sexual behaviour they would like victims to participate in," said Mr Lawrence.

Police identified 14 of the victims - aged between eight and 15 at the time of the offences - from across the UK and USA.

Between November 2019 and February 2020, Morton began communicating with two teenage brothers in the USA and encouraged them to have sex with each other which he recorded.

Another boy who was targeted was just eight-years-old with Morton persuading him to send ten images of himself which were distributed around the group.

Morton was later charged with 21 child sex offences and admitted each count at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday, February 4 2021, as well as three separate counts of making indecent images and breaching his sexual harm prevention order.

Stuart Neale, defending, said Morton had been "cast adrift" after he had first come to the attention of the authorities almost a decade previously.

"No treatment was undertaken and although it doesn't excuse what happens afterwards one has to ask why the defendant has fallen through the stools," said Mr Neale. "Having been arrested in 2016 there seems to have been little involvement in terms of supervising his activities.

"To an extent he has been cast loose when those who are subject to these types of feelings need supervision, need controlling and need reminding what is going on."

Passing sentence, Recorder Geoffrey Payne described Morton as a "prolific and predatory sexual offender."

"You are undoubtedly dangerous and have a record of offending that shows you seek your own gratification at the expense of young, vulnerable people," he said.

"Your activities were calculated an devious and systematically targeted young people which you have done in the teeth of court orders."

Morton was sentenced to 16 years - 10 of which will be spent behind bars and six on licence - and ordered to sign the sex offender's register.