A retired Foreign Officer worker and hospice trustee harboured a secret interest in child sex abuse images.

The 65-year-old was caught with 916 indecent pictures of real children, 114 extreme images of pornography and 5,000 cartoons and drawings of children.  They were found on his computer tower and stored on a memory stick that were seized from his former home in Hertfordshire. They ranged from Category A – the most serious, to Category C – the least.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told him on Friday 29th May: “To the public eye you appeared to be a thoroughly decent human being, but you were nursing a dark secret.

“This is not a victimless crime. The images are of real children who were really being abused and people like you create a market and perpetuate the abuse.”

David Harounoff, prosecuting at St Albans crown court, said the police carried out an early morning raid at the man’s home on 20 March last year.

He told his wife: “It is like last time” – indicating that she had caught him looking at illegal images on a previous occasion.

He had stored images of boys and girls aged about 10 being forced into sexual activity. Search terms such as: “Pre teen” had been used.

The defendant, who now lives in Essex, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to seven counts of downloading indecent images, one of possessing images of extreme pornography and one of possessing prohibited images of children in the form of cartoons or drawings.

Alex Britton, defending, urged the judge to pass a suspended sentence with a condition that his client attends a Sexual Treatment Programme. “Prison would be extremely hard for him. He would be targeted by other prisoners. His wife has become increasingly fragile since this came out,” he said.

He said he had voluntarily been seeking help from the Lucy Faithfull child protection charity. Since his arrest his daughter-in-law had banned him from seeing his grandchildren in the UK and his conviction means he will not be allowed to visit the United States where he has other grandchildren.

Judge Carroll told him: “You could have no complaint if you were sent immediately to prison.

“It seems to be that the public interest would not be met by an 8 month jail, which is not long enough for you to engage in a Sex Offender Treatment Programme in prison. Society’s interests are best served by making sure everything is done to reduce the chance of you offending again.”

He passed an 8 month jail sentence suspended for 2 years with a condition that he attends the Integrated Sex Offender Treatment Programme. The judge passed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years and ordered him to register as a Sex Offender for 10 years.

The judge said that as he benefits from a civil service pension, the man could also pay £500 prosecution costs.