A paedophile claimed he had a "small feet fetish" to cover up his sexual interest in children, saying he had accidentally seen images of child pornography while looking for pictures of feet.
Alexander Rowe, 25, was given a two year suspended sentence and avoided being sent to prison at Chester Crown Court.
Prosecutor Mandy Nepal said Cheshire policed searched Rowe's home on December 7, 2017, upon examining his computer, mobile phone, and an online dropbox they discovered 253 indecent images.
His victims’ ages ranged from about two to 14 years-old, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Rowe pleaded guilty at two separate hearings this year in January and February in magistrates' and crown courts to seven counts.
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This includes: distributing two Category B images; possessing extreme pornography featuring adult females and animals; possessing indecent images: distributing three Category C images; making 141 Category A images – the most serious kind; making 43 Category B images; and making 69 Category C images.
Of those, the investigation identified 118 Category A videos – the most serious type, 25 Category B videos and 11 Category C videos.
The court heard horrific graphic details of the abuse including young children being raped and the use of objects.
Victims displayed "great distress".
Rowe had also shared five images – two Category B and three Category C – with someone online.
Miss Nepal said Rowe claimed to have accidentally seen the images while looking for pictures of feet to sate a "fetish".
She said: "He goes on to say he has a foot fetish, he prefers small adult feet, that small children’s and babies’ feet would pop up when he entered his search terms.”
Judge Patrick Thompson was quick to banish the excuse, noting that Rowe’s search history included a search for a "mentally-ill nine-year-old" being abused.
He added: “He would type in ‘feet’ and images of children being raped would pop up?”
The judge branded the images "utterly horrific" and "worse than a horror film".
Miss Nepal agreed there were "indecent search terms" and added that Rowe admitted to police that he had shared indecent images in the hope of receiving others in exchange.
Rowe also admitted to probation that he had performed a sex act while viewing.
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Asked why the case had taken over two years to reach sentencing, Miss Nepal said the police had limited digital forensic resources for the level of offending taking place.
Philip Tully, appearing for the defence, said Rowe was of previous good character, the offences "dated back a considerable time" to between 2013 and 2017, and Rowe had not committed any crimes since.
He said the purpose of sentencing was "punishment and rehabilitation on an equal footing".
There was some debate about Rowe's denials to the probation service that he had a sexual interest in children.
Judge Thompson said Rowe told the probation officer who prepared his pre-sentence report that he "had no sexual interest in children" on "numerous occasions".
The judge expressed scepticism about the sincerity of Rowe’s claims on the day of sentencing that he now conceded he had a problem.
Mr Tully said Rowe had acknowledged the issue with probation because Rowe said he was "disgusted about his behaviour" and "was able to recognise how his offending behaviour fed into the abuse of children".
He said the probation report had suggested that Rowe should complete the Horizon sex offender programme and a rehabilitation activity requirement.
Rowe received credit for his guilty pleas.
Judge Thompson sentenced him to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
He called it a "difficult case", as any available custodial sentence under the guidelines mean Rowe would be out "in a few months".
During his summing-up, Judge Thompson summarised the images, saying: “Clearly they involved very young and vulnerable children aged between two and 12, and it was clear from these appalling and disgusting videos the children were in great distress while they were being raped by perverted sick adults.
“Those images that you sought out by your searches wouldn’t exist but for the fact that there are people with a twisted and sick interest in seeing children being raped for their sexual pleasure.”
He added: “I tell you this, for the next two years that suspended sentence will be hanging over you.
“If you repeat that sort of behaviour you will be sent to prison.”
Judge Thompson also placed Rowe on the sex offenders register for the next 10 years and approved an application for a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, also to run for 10 years.
Rowe must complete 20 days of rehabilitation activity and the Horizon programme.
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