EVIDENCE of offensive child sexual abuse images, “of the utmost gravity”, was found on examination of a mobile phone seized by police.

Durham Crown Court heard the phone was recovered from the home of Dean John Reeve, in Ouston, near Chester-le-Street, on January 31, last year.

When the memory was checked 116 indecent images of children and ten videos, all since deleted, were found to have been obtained between May 2014 and the day of the police visit.

Tom Mitchell, prosecuting, said many seemed to have been acquired via a file-sharing application from like-minded people.

Nine videos and 38 images were classed in the most serious bracket.

Asked to give an outline of their contents, Mr Mitchell told Judge Jonathan Carroll: “A sample were described as of, ‘the utmost gravity’.

“If those abusing the children were caught and convicted of these crimes any one of them would receive at least 20-year sentences, and, in any likelihood, significantly longer in some cases.

“Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to describe their contents.”

Mr Mitchell did add, however, that some of the children featured, who were as young as three, appeared to be, “discernibly suffering, with a degree of sadism involved.”

On his arrest, Reeve made no comment in interview, but the court heard he was more forthcoming in his Probation Service pre-sentence report.

The 31-year-old defendant, of The Brooms, Ouston, admitted one count of possessing and three of making indecent images of a child.

Liam O’Brien, mitigating, described Reeve, who has no previous convictions, as, “a socially isolated man, with limited intellect.”

Mr O’Brien said: “Work needs to be done with him to address this behaviour and the way that can be done is by way of a suspended sentence.

“He lives with his mother at an address known to those who will monitor him in the public protection unit.”

Judge Carroll said it would be of more benefit to the public if Reeve can work at length with the Probation Service to reduce the likelihood of him reoffending.

“Sometimes the public don’t appreciate judges are governed by the sentencing guidelines. They can’t just pluck a figure out of the air when sentencing.

“The starting point recommended is a one-year sentence, which would be reduced because of the ‘guilty’ pleas.

“That is not sufficient time for him to undergo the necessary course work in prison.”

The judge, therefore, imposed a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years, during which he must undergo sex offender course work and take part in 30 rehabilitation activity days.

Reeve is also subject to prohibitions under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and must notify as a sex offender, both for ten years.