A leading churchman has been ordered to go on a Sex Offender’s programme after he was caught with child pornography of the most serious level on his home computer.
Highly respected Ian Ross, 65, had perverted images of girls as young as three.
He pleaded guilty to making indecent images of children between May 2013 and May last year.
The judge said Ross’s behaviour had shocked his religious community and had led to him being excluded.
No details of his church position were made public when he was also given a suspended jail sentence at Teesside Crown Court.
Judge Stephen Ashurst told him: “You are 65, you have no previous convictions, and to the outside world you appeared to be a respectable man.
“You held positions of some authority in the community, particularly your religious community.
“You now stand in the Crown Court in some disgrace because of what you believed was your private interest and has now put you in the public glare.”
Prosecutor Jenny Haigh said Ross’s computer had stored a total of 593 still and moving images including 28 at the most serious level Category A , another 14 at Level B and 523 at Level C of girls aged between three and 16.
Julian Gaskin, defending, said: “He is very shameful about what has taken place and he has spoken with some candour.”
Ross, of St Oswald’s Crescent, Billingham, who has been living with his sister in Southend, was given a six months jail sentence suspended for two years with the Sex Offender’s Treatment programme, a Sexual Offence’s Prevention Order banning him from unsupervised contact with girls under 16 for seven years, banned from accessing the internet except with a device that can be monitored by police, and ordered to register as a sex offender for seven years, after he pleaded guilty to making indecent images of children.
The judge ordered the destruction of his computer hard-drive.