A man who distributed indecent images of children online to fellow paedophiles is starting a 31-month prison sentence.

Having posted the images, some taken by himself, Andrew Longthorne became involved in chats with, among others, a convicted sex offender, each fantasising as to how they would like to abuse the children featured on the illicit material.

Durham Crown Court was told police received notification about the uploading of illegal images from an IP address found to belong to Longthorne, in early 2018.

Anne Richardson, prosecuting, said different profiles were used by Longthorne, who sent the images to three separate individuals.

Read more: Newton Aycliffe man had 'unnatural attraction' to girl, 12

He became involved in an online chat with someone posing as ‘Megan’, claiming to be a 13-year-old girl, in which he said he was 29, at the time, but telling her he liked younger girls.

Longthorne sent a picture of a girl to ‘Megan’ who responded by sending an image claiming to be of her cousin, in underwear.

Miss Richardson said Longthorne sent other indecent videos and had discussions with other people, one in the Philippines, and one where he claimed to be a young girl.

Longthorne was arrested at an address in Spennymoor in March 2018 and he denied the alleged offences.

Following further inquiries, he was interviewed a year later and once more denied committing any offences.

When shown the images he had posted online, he said he had no knowledge about their creation and he denied having a sexual interest in children.

The court heard lengthy investigations followed, which involved making applications to obtain information with Facebook in the US, and Longthorne was only charged and first came to court in May this year.

Despite still indicating his innocence at the initial hearing, by the time the case came before the crown court, on June 21, the 34-year-old defendant, of Upper Church Street, Spennymoor, finally made admissions, to one count of taking indecent child photos, plus six counts of distributing them, including four videos, two in the most serious category.

Miss Richardson said the videos, of different children, all unknown, being sexually abused by adults, must have obtained from the internet by Longthorne.

Read more: County Durham sex offender risked prison for breaching order

Victoria Lamballe, in mitigation, said due to the length of time the investigation has taken it has been five years and four months since Longthorne was first arrested, since when he has not committed any further offences.

“He has now been able to articulate his disgust and shame at his own actions.”

She said people faced with offences of this type find it difficult to face up to what they have done, but the defendant has now been able to acknowledge it and Miss Lamballe said work could carried out with him by various agencies to address that offending and reduce the risk he may pose in future.

“He’s willing to comply with any such orders or programmes probation put him on,” said Miss Lamballe, who added the defendant has no similar offending history.

But Recorder Andrew Dallas said it was such a serious case that only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified.

Read next:

Don't miss out on the latest news and stories. Subscribe to The Northern Echo for just £4 for four months. Click here.

Recorder Dallas said he was satisfied Longthorne took the photos with the aim of distributing them, as he did and on three separate occasions communicated on Facebook with other people, at least one a known paedophile, masquerading as someone else on occasions.

Imposing the prison sentence of two years and seven months, Recorder Dallas also made Longthorne subject of indefinite restrictions under the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

He must also comply with registration and notification requirements as a sex offender for life.