A pervert who claimed he downloaded almost 2,000 indecent images of children to investigate the source of the child abuse has been jailed.

Stewart Duffey started downloading the sickening images in June 2010 and his vile collection was only discovered in January last year when police seized a number of digital devices.

The 37-year-old refused to handover the passwords to two of his mobile phones so forensic experts were unable to analyse the contents of them.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Duffey remained adamant that he was downloading the images for investigative purposes throughout the 12 years.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, police were able to recover 1,713 still and moving images of children being sexually abused as young as one-year-old.

She said officers seized a mobile phone, computer tower unit, USB memory stick, and DVDs for analysis but refused to co-operate with them about the passwords to two other mobile phones.

The Northern Echo: Stewart DuffeyStewart Duffey (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Duffey, of Thompson Street West, Darlington, pleaded guilty to possessing 383 Category A – the worst kind – indecent images; 466 Category B images; 864 Category C images; and failing to comply with a section 49 notice to disclose the key to protected information – the pass codes to the two mobile phones.

Emma Williams, mitigating, said her client stood by the assertion that he had only downloaded the indecent images in an attempt to track down the abusers and report them to the police.

She added: “He has expressed his remorse and says he is ashamed and disgusted by his behaviour. He says he had a problem with alcohol which played a factor in his offending.”

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Recorder Aisha Wadoodi sentenced the defendant to 18 months in custody after he admitted downloading the images for more than a decade.

She said: “For a 12-year period you were accessing these images and that is an extremely lengthy period of time.

“It is aggravated by the fact there are also videos and some of very young children who are clearly in pain and distress.”

Duffey was also made subject to a ten-year sexual harm prevention order and told to sign on the sex offenders’ register for the same period of time.