A SEX offender was said to be “in denial” of his attraction to young girls, a court heard.

Recorder Sophie Drake made the observation about Ashley Colville as she jailed him for a year for possession of indecent images of children.

It followed recovery of an iPhone by police who called at his home in Peterlee, County Durham, on October 5.

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Durham Crown Court heard that examination of its contents revealed 27 offending images, including five considered to be in the top two most serious categories for such material.

Colville told police he had gone onto an internet chat room from which he was able to download adult pornography, but he accepts it included indecent images featuring children.

Stephen Duffield, prosecuting, said Colville claimed they were, “not there at his instigation.”

But, Mr Duffield said that at the time Colville was on licence from a 40-month prison sentence for an indecent assault on a 16-year-old woman, for which he was ordered to permanently register as a sex offender.

Colville, 23, of Cotswold Place, admitted ten counts of possession and one of making indecent images of children.

His barrister, Scott Smith, said Colville indicated early admissions in the case, but accepted that, “a significant aggravating feature” of the case was having access to such material given his previous conviction.

Mr Smith said a pre-sentence report on Colville appears to suggest he has a, “high level of sexual pre-occupation”, but he added that there would be little opportunity to address this while in custody, as his latest offence would not attract a lengthy sentence.

Imposing the year-long prison sentence, Recorder Drake told Colville: “It’s readily acknowledged that custody is the only option here due to your previous conviction.

“I accept you have not physically touched the children on these images, but by looking at them you’re encouraging abuse of children and furtherance of what is a vile industry.

“It’s worrying that you failed to recognise you have a sexual interest in children.

“The author of the report has grave doubt about managing your future risk and I agree with that.

“At the age of 23 you are building up a worrying history for sexual offending.”

Recorder Drake also made Colville subject of a sexual offences prevention order, restricting his future access to the internet, “indefinitely”, while he remains on the Sex Offenders’ Register, for life.