A PERVERT from the North- East has become one of the first people in the country to be prosecuted for having a collection of child abuse images in the form of cartoon drawings.

Andrew O’Neill’s stash of sick pictures was discovered when police raided his Stockton home after a tip-off from investigators alerted to his computer activity.

Prosecutors told how he downloaded thousands of photographs and videos of children being abused – as well as drawings.

O’Neill, 30, was spared jail yesterday after a judge at Teesside Crown Court heard how he would get more help for his problems in the community than behind bars.

The former security guard was given a six-month suspended prison sentence with two years of supervision, and ordered to undergo the sex offenders’ treatment programme.

He was also put on the sex offenders’ register for seven years, banned from working with children and ordered not to have unsupervised contact with under-16s.

After the case, police computer expert Ray Savage said the prosecution was the first in the region under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which came into force last April.

Breaches of the law – designed to close a loophole and make indecent computer-generated images and drawings of children illegal – carry a threeyear maximum sentence.

The legislation was condemned by a coalition of graphic artists, publishers and politicians, who argued that it would criminalise graphic novels such as Lost Girls and Watchmen.

Judge Tony Briggs branded as “disgusting and distressing”

O’Neill’s collection of pictures and short film clips – which included videos of children as young as six being raped.

He told the bachelor: “The real problem about this is the continued demand and appetite for material of this sort means more children get abused in the future for the material.”

O’Neill pleaded guilty to 24 charges relating to making and possessing a total of more than 2,500 indecent photographs, extreme pornography and prohibited images – the cartoons.

His lawyer, Andrew Turton, told the court that he was prepared to seek help.

“A relatively short custodial sentence will not afford the criminal justice system sufficient time to address the factors which underpinned the offending,” he said.

Judge Briggs said of the suspended term of imprisonment: “It is far more likely to protect the public in the future from your activities than a short prison sentence would.”