A JUDGE spoke at length about sentencing constraints as he allowed a paedophile to walk free for downloading indecent images of children and bestiality.

Mark Mclucas, 39, was yesterday (Wednesday, July 3) given a suspended prison sentence with probation supervision and was ordered to go on a sex offenders' treatment programme.

Judge Peter Bowers said he would not get the help he needs for his "unhealthy interest" in prison because any sentence would be too short for the course.

He told the pervert he was worried that in an interview with a probation official, Mclucas showed little insight into his offending and the impact on victims.

Teesside Crown Court heard how police found the vile pictures on a lap-top computer in the home of the former council road worker from Stockton last March.

Mclucas said he had borrowed the machine from his ex-wife and knew nothing about the images, but later said they must have popped up when he viewed adult porn.

His barrister, Duncan McReddie, said he has since come to terms with what he had done, while the judge described his recent realisation as a Damascus Road change.

Judge Bowers told Mclucas: "We get an increasing number of men of your age and older who feast their eyes on indecent images of children on the internet.

"To a large extent, the courts are bound by the guideline sentences. The guidelines in your case involve a period of months in prison and that's after a trial.

"The problem with the guideline sentences of that length is that anyone going into prison in this country with a short sentence has not got a hope of starting the sex offender treatment programme or getting any help or therapy to address their unhealthy interest.

"Therefore, if a defendant is willing and susceptible to some treatment outside of prison, the courts take the view that it is far better to have a defendant engage in a programme in the hope that it can give insight and mend their future ways, rather than lock them up for a few weeks and let them come out no different from what they were when they went in, with their unhealthy interest.

"My problem is in your case the report seemed to suggest you showed little insight into what you were doing, you really had come across these pictures by mistake and you were really not prepared to engage with the Probation Service in addressing what is an unhealthy appetite.

"I hope that the sex offender treatment programme will give you an insight into the appalling abuse that some of these kids suffer.

"The longer people in this country download and view these images, the longer this unhealthy appetite will grow and more children will be abused day in and day out in this country and other parts of the world.

"I know you are not doing the abusing, but your interest feeds the people who make money out of this."

Mclucas, of Whitley Road, Thornaby, admitted ten charges of making indecent images of children, one of possessing them and two of having extreme pornography.

He was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after the judge told him: "In the end, I have decided to take a chance with you."

Mr McReddie said Mclucas had found it hard to accept what he had done, and added: "We are all well aware of the climate that exists outside this courtroom to offences of this type.

"Your Honour will be aware that defendants are always worried that outside this courtroom, even when they have been punished, there are others who do not adhere to the rule of law and that generates a reluctance to be as candid as they should be."