A JUDGE has told a 50-year-old man who was in possession of more than 2,000 images of child pornography that his case was "one of the worst he had ever encountered".
Judge Francis Gilbert told Keith Gibson, 50, a computer repairman, that only a prison sentence would be appropriate after he pleaded guilty to 15 charges of possessing and distributing indecent images and videos of children.
Gibson, formerly of Milford Cottages, Kennford but now living in River Drive, Cullompton, pleaded guilty to all counts when he appeared before Exeter magistrates earlier this month and the case had been sent to Exeter Crown Court for sentencing.
He was arrested after his online activity was monitored by a specialist child exploitation policing team in London. When interviewed, he freely confessed that had "a sick interest in children" which had led him to make and distribute indecent images of children between August 2003 and June 2011.
Of the images and videos found in his possession, 872 were level four or five images. Images are classified on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most serious and obscene level. Some of the images involved babies under the age of six months, and he circulated a video of a four-year-old girl being raped. All of the photographs and videos featured young girls.
Judge Gilbert was told that Gibson used chat sites where he engaged in "highly sexual conversations" and distributed images and videos of children being abused. Prosecutors said there was no way of knowing whether Gibson had been speaking with children or adults.
Nick Bradley, defending asked Judge Gilbert to take Gibson's previous good character into consideration, adding that Gibson had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Mr Bradley said: "The most significant factor is his cooperation with the investigation. There was brutal frankness in the way he explained to officers what had motivated him to do this. It is often the case that people involved in this kind of offending offer excuses. He has taken an important first step forward in reforming his behaviour.
Mr Bradley suggested that Gibson should be given a suspended sentence of at least three years, which would allow him to complete a rehabilitation course for sex offenders. He argued that the "threat of jail would act as a very powerful deterrent".
But Judge Gilbert said he would be sending Gibson to jail for the "very serious charges".
Sentencing him to a total of two years in prison, the judge said: "You accept you have a sexual interest in children. You engaged in highly sexual conversations on chat sites and you did not know whether it was with adults or children, but you fantasised that they were children. Photographs and videos were also distributed.
"You went to significant lengths to avoid detection and had no regard for the children that were abused.
"This is one of the most serious cases I have come across in my long career and only immediate custody can be justified."
Gibson will be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register indefinitely and will spend a minimum of 10 years subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
Judge Gilbert added that he hoped that Gibson would "voluntarily participate" in a rehabilitation programme for sex offenders following his release from prison
Speaking after sentencing, Detective Constable Steven Harris of Devon & Cornwall Police said: "We were alerted to his activities by a Child Exploitation Team based in London. He cooperated with our investigation and he had encrypted a lot of the material.
"I would say he is one of the most worrying people we have ever come across because of the nature of the material and his actions. The two-year sentence is what we had expected."
Gibson is understood to have moved to Cullompton after his home in Kennford flooded in recent heavy rain, damaging many of his possessions. An interview he gave at the time was released on Youtube.