A CONVICTED sex offender has been caught with a number of child abuse images stashed away in his home.

Phillip Bouttell's illicit photographs were discovered by police while they were carrying out a search of his house in Billingham.

The pictures were of young girls being abused, which Teesside Crown Court was told was not his sexual predilection.

The court heard how Bouttell had forgotten he had been given the photographs 15 years ago by someone who he met while ‘cottaging' – looking for sex – in a Middlesbrough park because they were of no interest to him.

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said: "On March 28, 2018, a search warrant was executed at his home address, the search was for something entirely different. When it was ongoing a number of indecent images of children were found.

"Unusually, they were not computer images, they were hard copies. He said he had been in possession of them for 15 years.

"He said he had been given the by 'Dave' who he met while cottaging in Albert Park.

"He said he wasn't interested in them because they were of young girls and he was interested in young boys."

Bouttell, of Queensway, Billingham, pleaded guilty to possession of one indecent image in category A, the highest category, one in category B and five in category C.

His last conviction for a sex offence was in March 1993 when Bouttell was jailed for 12 years for the rape of an 11-year-old boy in Stockton's Ropner Park.

The court heard how Bouttell, 59, had stayed out of trouble since his release from prison and managed to hold down a job for the last 15 years.

Rod Hunt, mitigating, said urged the judge to pass a non-custodial sentence given his early guilty pleas to the three charges.

He said: "He has held down a job for 15 years. Other than this, he has rehabilitated himself and is a hardworking, tax-paying member of society.

"He has managed to keep his job while others have been losing their's during the virus period – he is obviously a valued member of staff."

Judge Deborah Sherwin sentenced Bouttell to a two year community order and ordered him to carry out 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

She said the defendant would benefit from the interaction with the authorities as a way of addressing some of the worrying behaviour which had been identified in a pre-sentence report.

"These were hard copies rather than something on the internet," she said. "The explanation you gave, I was a little bit sceptical about.

"These were images that were given to you some years ago and you failed to get rid of.

"They certainly don't reflect your sexual interests."

Bouttell was reminded that he would remain on the sex offenders' register for life but an application for a sexual harm prevention order was refused.