A paedophile who downloaded nearly 200,000 indecent images of children has avoided jail.

Philip Keeble, of Witham, was caught in possession of 3,643 category A images, which are categorised as the most serious.

He was also found to have 1,715 category B and 188,845 category C images after police executed a warrant at his home back in November 2017.

Officers seized a number of electronic devices from the property including a hard drive and two laptops which contained Keeble’s vast collection of images.

Police charged Keeble, 48, of Maidment Crescent, following a 20-month investigation. He admitted to all charges brought against him at the first opportunity.

During sentencing last Wednesday, Chelmsford Crown Court heard the majority of images found on the electronic devices were of females aged between 12 and 14, however police also found some aged between three and five.

Kathy Hirst, prosecuting, revealed Keeble had used computer software called Torrent to access the images and he regularly downloaded them in bulk.

The court was told the first of the images were downloaded back in 2010.

Mr Baker, mitigating, said his client had been fully co-operative with the authorities ever since police had raided his home in 2017 and had even admitted what he had done before he was charged.

Mr Baker added: “In his own words to me it was a relief this had happened. As you can see from the pre-sentence report, Mr Keeble had become almost obsessed regarding the downloading of images and storing them to his hard drive.

“To his credit, prior to any work being undertaken by police, he made full admissions about his wrongdoing, explaining what he had done and also the motivations behind it.”

Keeble was handed a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for downloading the category A images. He was handed two separate six-month suspended prison sentences, which will run concurrently with the 15-month sentence, for the category B and C offences.

He must undertake a rehabilitation programme and was served with a ten-year sexual harm prevention order.

Judge Christopher Morgan said Keeble’s previous good character and co-operation with police was crucial in him avoiding immediate jail time.

He said: “It struck me this was a determined effort to collect images of children being abused at various ages and of various categories.

“You will understand though you weren’t taking these pictures, simply by downloading and viewing for your own gratification you were playing your part in the abuse of real children. And it follows you are in part responsible for the psychological and physical harm.

“This is your one and only opportunity. Should you find yourself in breach of the sexual harm prevention order or any of the notification requirements or indeed convicted of a sexual offence, then you will go immediately to prison.”