A MAN who downloaded “dreadful” images of boys being abused over almost a decade told a Probation Officer he had no sexual motivation in seeking such material, a court heard.

But, at the sentencing hearing for defendant Stephen Fleet at Durham Crown Court, it was said he does, now, “acknowledge” he has a problem and needs assistance.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Fleet, however: “It’s absolutely clear to me you have no real insight into your own sexuality and sexual motivation to commit these offences, and little or no effective insight into the victim harm.

“I regard you as one of those people who think that just by looking at this on your computer you are not causing harm.

“You are wrong. In seeking out this material you are, in fact, creating the market for some people to go out and produce more of this type of material.

“There are real children suffering abuse for people like you to view for sexual gratification.”

Martin Towers, for Fleet, urged the judge to pass a suspended sentence, so the defendant, who has no previous convictions, could seek assistance.

But, the judge said: “Sometimes it is in the public’s interests that they will be better served by a sentence being passed so defendants can address their problems.

“These programmes, however, can only be effective for those who truly acknowledge they have a problem to fix.

“For that reason, and due to the nature of this material, the public would generally expect a prison sentence.

“Here, there is no justification for a non-custodial option.”

He imposed a 12-month sentence and made Fleet subject of a 15-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and sex offender notification for ten years.

Judge Carroll also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the seized computer equipment.

Fleet, 58, of Mount Stewart Street, Seaham, admitted making indecent images of children in all three brackets of severity, downloading 160 offending images, some moving.

He also admitted possessing 30 prohibited “realistic” computer-generated images featuring scenes of children being abused.

Rebecca Brown, prosecuting, said the computers were seized by police on October 17 last year and examination revealed children, mainly boys, as young as three, being beaten and sexually abused.