AN IT manager who hoarded almost 9,000 indecent images of children has been spared jail after a judge said locking him up would mean he would not undergo a sex offenders' treatment programme.

James Miller said he had been downloading and viewing such vile images for the past ten years out of curiosity.

The 57-year-old, of Leafield Road, Darlington, told officers he had a very good knowledge of computers, but denied using the computers which belonged to his employer, a Shildon-based company, in order to access the pictures.

Prosecutor Rachel Masters told Teesside Crown Court that police analysed the hard drive of a PC belonging to Miller and also found images on a CD at his home.

In total 8,979 indecent images were found. Of those 540 were at level four and half a dozen at level five - five being regarded as the most serious category of images.

Ben Pegman, for Miller, said he was a man of previous good character and had a long work history.

Mr Pegman warned Judge Peter Bowers that a long custodial sentence would not afford anybody the opportunity to do any rehabilitative work with Miller in respect of his sexual urges.

Sentencing Miller, who admitted 15 counts of making indecent images and one of possession, Judge Bowers told him: "This type of offending is the product of many acts of abuse on children, some in this country and some abroad.

"That sort of abuse will continue as long as there is a ready made market for people to view it."

However despite stating that the courts took a "firm" view of such offending, Judge Bowers agreed that jailing Miller immediately would mean he was unable to undergo a sex offenders' treatment programme, run by the Probation Service.

The judge said Miller had shown a degree of frankness with the police and gave him a nine-month long jail sentence, suspended for two years.

The defendant has signed the sex offenders' register and will be supervised in the community for the two year period.