A FORMER prison officer who downloaded and passed on “repugnant” child pornography was yesterday jailed for two years.

Leslie Winnard, 52, who has spent nearly 30 years in the Prison Service across the North-East, lost his job at Holme House Jail, near Stockton, after admitting charges at a previous hearing, in September.

Durham Crown Court heard that Winnard stored 1,567 indecent images of children, mostly stills, but 24 “moving”, on his computer, seized by police from his home in Eden Drive, Sedgefield, County Durham, on March 10.

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Eleven of the images were considered to be the most severe form of child pornography, level five, while 257 were rated at level four.

Winnard admitted 16 counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, plus one of possessing and two of distributing such material.

Although he has no previous convictions, the court heard he was cautioned for committing an act outraging public decency, performing a sex act on himself while naked in his car, in October 2008.

Dan Cordey, for Winnard, told the hearing: “It’s clearly accepted the images are repugnant.

“He’s a man who, save the caution and these convictions, has essentially led a blameless life, including nearly 30 years without being subject to disciplinary action, with the Prison Service.”

But Mr Cordey said Winnard’s “downfall” began after his 17-year marriage ended, due to his adultery.

“What initially began as an addiction to adult pornography and impersonal relationships with females of appropriate age has spiralled out of control.

“The consequences of custody for this defendant are clearly dire, with the twin handicap of being a sex offender and a former prison officer,”

said Mr Cordey.

Jailing him, Judge Christopher Prince told Winnard: “You and others must understand that every time such images of a child is viewed it’s a form of sexual abuse of that child.

“The distribution perpetuates this form of sexual abuse of children.”

The judge banned Winnard from ever working with children.

Winnard must also sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, and was made subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, forbidding him from possessing photographs of children, and restricting his use of computers and accessing the internet.