A FORMER teacher caught with dozens of images of child abuse on his computer has walked free from court.

Thomas Copeland's sickening collection was discovered when he asked a school colleague to fix his machine.

The IT technician reported his findings to the headteacher and 29-year-old Copeland was suspended.

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Teesside Crown Court heard he was a technology teacher at Gillbrook Academy in South Bank, Middlesbrough.

Copeland, of Hazelmere Close, Billingham, near Stockton, admitted 16 charges relating to the indecent images.

He was given a three-year community order with supervision, and was put on the sex offenders' register.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, yesterday also ordered Copeland to go on a sex offender treatment programme.

Brian Russell, mitigating, said a ten-day spell behind bars on remand had been "an extremely salutary lesson".

He said Copeland had lost his job and good reputation and has been shunned by his outraged family.

Copeland's wife has returned to the US with their daughter, and his father refuses to speak to him.

He pleaded guilty to 15 charges of making indecent photographs and one count of possessing 155 of them.

The images - some of them short film clips - were downloaded between July 2007 and February 2011.

Prosecutor Sharon Elves told the court that they depicted boys and girls, some aged as young as six.

After his arrest in July 2011, Copeland said he stumbled across child pornography and developed an interest.

He told police he got sexual gratification from it and had been looking at the images for two years.