A 20-year-old Cotswolds man who tried to delete indecent images of children from his laptop and smashed his mobile phone when he knew the police were on the way to see him has been sentenced to a three year community order.

Sam Righton, of Old Farm, Dorn, Batsford, near Moreton in Marsh, will also have to do 100 hours of unpaid work and will be on the Sex Offender Register for five years.

The sentence was passed at Gloucester crown court on Friday after he had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to downloading three Category A indecent images of a child (the most serious category), 96 category B and 77 category C.

Prosecutor Harry Ahuja said police, acting on a tip off from the National Crime Agency that indecent images of children were being downloaded from an IP address in Moreton in Marsh, executed a warrant at Righton's home.

"On arrival at the property on February 20th 2019, police officers spoke with Righton’s mother who told the officers that her son was at work and she gave them his contact details," said Mr Ahuja..

“The police spoke with Righton and arranged they agreed to meet with him at an address in Thornbury.

“When the police arrived, the police found a laptop with some software running on it which was designed to clean up the device. The officer immediately powered down the appliance so the programme could not complete its task.

“Following the seizure, the laptop was scrutinised and 176 indecent images of children in three categories were identified along with 600 borderline images.

“It was not possible to examine his mobile phone as Mr Righton had smashed it, even though the police had spoken to him a short time earlier.

“His recent internet activity on the phone was, however, able to be examined and it revealed searches for why police would want to interview him.

"This led the police to believe he’d deliberately damaged his phone in order to prevent it being examined thoroughly.

“In interview Righton stated that he visited a pornography website in 2017/18, initially looking for adult activity and then viewed anything and everything else being offered on the website and downloaded the images of children to his laptop.

“He said at the time he was sexually aroused by the images. But he now regrets his youthful behaviour and consequently he now feels stupid.”

Ryan O’Donnell, defending said: “For most of the period identified Righton was downloading these images while he was a youth himself and even at the age of 18 he showed a lack of maturity when he tried to delete the images due to panic.

“Righton has been given a positive pre-sentence report which identified that he needs some help to ensure realistic rehabilitation.”

Judge Michael Cullum expressed his surprise that this case had been sent to the crown court and said: “With the level of sentencing options available, this case was very capable of being resolved at the magistrates’ court.”

The judge told Righton that he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and it was obvious that he had the full support of his family.

“There were only a small number of the top category A images, but nonetheless all the images are deeply shocking to most people," said the judge.

“But what is important is that these were real children being abused so that evil people like you could view them for their own sexual gratification.

“You joined that club, encouraging the abuse of children, and each child you saw being raped or abused will forever carry that burden. They will not be cured by any length of community service and move forward with their lives.

“They will forever be dealing with these issues. Children deserve protection from abuse like this. That’s why this is a serious issue and the reason why courts clamp down on it.”

Judge Cullum said he had not viewed the images himself but had been given a full description of them.

“I’ve had the unpleasant task of reading about these graphic images. It tells me about an eight year old child being penetrated by an adult, with the obvious discomfort and pain," he said.

“That was just one image. You chose to view it and hundreds like it to get sexual gratification from it. You also realised that what you were doing was wrong and you tried to hide what you were doing from the police.

“The Category A images involve penetration but the category B images are equally as bad, with multiple children.

“This will be a terrible conviction to have against your name. Admittedly you were still a youth at the time for most of these downloading offences. Fortunately you did not distribute these images to likeminded other people.”

The judge sentenced Righton to a three year community order which includes 40 'programme days' to address his offending and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Righton was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for five years and he will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order that limits internet use for the same period of time.

The judge also ordered that Righton pay court costs of £300 and a victim surcharge.