A DARLINGTON man has avoided a jail sentence after admitting to downloading dozens of indecent images of children.

Richard Bond, from Darlington, admitted to downloading 77 indecent images of children as well as 63 images downloaded from a Russian website, of teenage boys in swim wear.

Teesside Crown Court heard the 55-year-old, of Coxwold Drive, had shown "remorse" after being caught with 15 category A – the most serious category – images, 35 category B images and 27 category C images, and had been "frank" about his interest in them.

The father-of-four had also had a "fantasy chat" with another man about young boys, described by police as "highly paedophilic".

The offences dated back to 2013, the court heard.

Bond pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images and the possession of prohibited images.

Nicholas Askins, mitigating, asked judge Stephen Ashurst to consider a suspended sentence and said Bond had been “frank” with probation services about his interest in indecent images.

He said: “That concession must be the first step in addressing the offending behaviour"

He added: “The view of the probation is that they can work with him and they can achieve something.

“There is a chance, given the right assistance, this defendant will never seen in a criminal court again."

He added that Bond had experienced a dysfunctional home life when younger but had always worked hard and had a good relationship with his children.

Judge Ashurst said: “At 55, with no criminal convictions, you have found yourself in very considerable disgrace.

“You have lost your good name in the community and I imagine its going to take many years to live down the crimes which have brought you before the court.

"The offences span a long period of time going back to 2013. What that shows is that over recent years you have developed an unhealthy interest in young boys in particular.

"Unusually you have acknowledged that as a problem you have."

He added: "Probation services have taken the view that your remorse is very powerful and the disgrace you feel is real so they feel they can work with you to protect the community in the long term."

Acknowledging that if he sent Bond to prison he was likely to spend a short period inside with offenders with similar, or more serious, convictions, the judge sentenced him to eight months in jail, which was suspended for two years.

He will have to carry out 45 rehabilitation activity days.

He will also be subject to a 10-year sexual harm prevention order (SHPO), which gives police access to all of his digital activity.

He is also prevented from living with any child without the permission of child services.