Warning: Readers may find details in the report distressing

A man was caught with hundreds of indecent images of children, some as young as babies and some in “visible distress”, after a police search.

Officers found the images when they searched the home of Craig Spencer in Farnworth on June 17, 2021.

Nearly three years on, Bolton Crown Court heard how they had been led to the house by searching Spencer’s IP address.

Prosecutor Tobias Collins said: “When the police arrived, Mr Spencer was sat in a van outside his house.”

On searching Spencer’s phone, after he handed over his PIN number, police found as range of images of children ranging from less than a year old to 14 years old.

The Bolton News: The case was heard at Bolton Crown CourtThe case was heard at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Collins told the court that the images included a “baby under the age of one” and “children in visible distress.”

The images appeared to have been sent over Whatsapp and included a conversation where 54-year-old Spencer said he had “had a play” over a five-year-old he had seen in the street.

In all there were as many as 127 Category A images of children, 94 Category B images and 123 Category C images.

They had been downloaded between September 2020 and June 2021.

Spencer, who was already on bail at the time for assaulting a woman, was interviewed twice by police.

Mr Collins said that Spencer admitted to police he was aware of the images but did not delete them or challenge the person who had sent them.

Spencer, of St James Street, Farnworth, pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child.

Patrick Buckley, defending, said that Spencer had always intended to plead guilty and had earned credit for admitting his crimes.

He pointed out that on his arrest Spencer had voluntarily handed over his phone and PIN number and said that probation services believed he could be better handled in the community.

Mr Buckley said: “If he was sent to prison immediately, the old truth is that he would have no access to the services proffered by the probation services.”

Recorder Alexandra Simmonds accepted that Spencer was “ashamed” of his actions and noted that he had been drinking and taking cocaine at the time.

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But she reminded the court that the images “included a baby under one year old” and that “some children in the images were visibly distressed.”

She also pointed out that Spencer was already on bail for a “serious” violent assault on a woman at the time.

Recorder Simmonds sentenced him to 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to do 100 hours of unpaid work with 35 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

She also made him subject to a notification requirement for 10 years and to a sexual harm prevention order, also for 10 years.