A FETISH for teenage girls in school uniform or leggings has resulted in a sexual deviant appearing in court.

Martin Smith was caught with a 'relatively' small number of child abuse images on his mobile phone, which also had software downloaded enabling him to film young girls without it showing on his screen.

However, police were unable to get access to four of his digital cloud accounts so the true extent of his collection will never be known, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The judge described the situation as 'worrying' fearing that the collection was the 'tip of a very big iceberg'.

Robin Patton, prosecuting, said the 36-year-old had been using the dark web to access pornography sites using search terms relevant to his illicit sexual interest.

During police interview, Mr Patton said the defendant maintained that he was not sexually interested in young girls but had a fetish for school uniforms and leggings.

The prosecutor said: "He denied he had a sexual interest in children, he said he had an interest in teenagers approximately 15 – it was explained to him that it was an offence if the person was under 18.

"He admitted it was wrong to view 15-year-old girls, his interest was in school uniforms."

The court heard that Smith had recorded people walking in the street wearing leggings but denied that he had filmed young children for his own sexual gratification.

He added: "If they were wearing a school uniform or leggings – that was his fetish."

Smith pleaded guilty to charges of possession of indecent images in Category A, B and C, at an earlier hearing.

In mitigation, Peter Sabiston said his client was 'ashamed and contrite' about his behaviour and urged to judge to spare him from immediate custody.

He said: "Around the time of these offences he lost his mother, in the report, you can see the low self-esteem and the desperation."

Smith, who the court heard had changed his name by deed poll, was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to carry out 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days to address his offending.

Judge Paul Watson, QC, said: "This is a very worrying case, you admit to sexual interest in very young girls and there must be some suspicion that what I'm dealing with, I fear, is really only the tip of a very big iceberg.

"What saves you from going immediately to custody is your openness and frankness with the probation service.

"This is not a victimless crime, these are real children being subjected to degrading and sexual abuse.

"I'm satisfied putting on the Horizons course will help bring home to you the seriousness of these offences.

"I'm persuaded, just, to make a community order in your case for two years."

Smith, of Pennyroyal Road, Stockton, was also issued with a sexual harm prevention order and told to sign on the sex offenders' register for five years.