A BEREAVED Worcester man plunged into the 'dark world' of child sex abuse after the death of his mother, viewing sick images of a 10-year-old being raped.

Ian Richards (pictured) walked free from Worcester Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to downloading hundreds of vile images onto a computer and two discs.

The 55-year-old of Silverdale Avenue, near London Road, Worcester, had already admitted three counts of making indecent images of children and one of possession of a prohibited image of a child when he appeared before Judge Jim Tindal for sentence.

Some of the images found were at category A - the worst kind within the sentencing guidelines - which show children being abused by adults.

Sophie Murray, prosecuting, said police had received information that an indecent image had been downloaded at the defendant's home address.

Officers conducted a search on March 7, 2018. The defendant had been working away at the time and was asked to bring his devices to Worcester Police Station which he 'duly did' said Miss Murray.

The devices were subject to a forensic examination and officers found 45 accessible category A images, 63 inaccessible category B images and 300 category C images, some of which were still accessible and others of which were inaccessible.

The indecent images had been downloaded between February 1, 2016 and October 9, 2017. Officers also seized two discs which contained further category C images of children made between October 23, 2006 and March 13, 2007.

Richards, who had no previous convictions, was interviewed by police, making full admissions and telling officers he had been 'going through a difficult time'. Explaining that he had been viewing adult pornography, he told them he had 'strayed into other areas' but did not think the images of children had been 'overly sexual'.

"He then said he did have sexual pleasure in adult pictures but not in child images" said Miss Murray.

The prosecutor provided a limited description of the indecent material but said the category A images included 'oral penetration of a child around 10 years old'.

Mark Sheward, defending, said his client pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity at the magistrates court on October 1 this year, making full admissions to police even before the devices had been examined.

Mr Sheward said his client had lost his job and his mother and had now also lost his good character, 'something which meant a lot to him'.

Richards had sought help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and later with another agency which assists people suffering from sex addiction.

"He has avoided his fate for nearly three years now" said Mr Sheward.

Judge Jim Tindal told the defendant: "The reason you committed these offences are depressingly familiar. A man of mature years who has never been in trouble before encounters problems in their life - in your case, I accept, quite significant difficulties.

"I'm particularly concerned about the circumstances of your mother's passing in 2016. You dealt with the bereavement and you dealt with the other circumstances you had in the worst possible manner by escaping into a very dark world.

"I don't doubt that the first steps were accidental and relatively tentative but the nature of these images is that one thing leads to another very easily and the number of images in the computer demonstrate that this was something close to an addiction by the end."

Rejecting the view of the probation service that Richards could be managed via a community order, Judge Tindal added: "Of course, the seriousness of these offences is not that you yourself abused these children but when men like you click on these images for their own gratification it fuels the trade in abuse all over the world."

The judge sentenced him to 12 months in prison suspended for two years and ordered Richards to complete 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Richards was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years and ordered to pay costs of £340.