A 42-year-old man who downloaded hundreds of indecent images of children was caught when he gave his computer to a friend to be fixed.
Darren Booth, who Teesside Crown Court heard has severe learning difficulties, knew his friend was good with computers but had not seen him a for a while.
"They came across each other by chance in Seaton Carew," said Jenny Haigh, prosecuting.
"The defendant said his computer had been acting up, and was showing a blank screen.
"It was agreed the friend would collect the computer and take it back to his home to fix.
"While working on it, he discovered indecent images of children.
"The friend handed in the computer at Peterlee police station."
It was found to contain 58 of the most serious category A child abuse images, 520 category B images, and 309 category C images.
"The category A images were mostly of young people aged 15 or 16 years," said Ms Haigh.
"Other images showed children as young as nine years."
Booth, of Albany Court, Hartlepool, admitted three charges of possessing indecent images of children.
He was of previous good character.
Stephen Constantine, defending, said in mitigation: "Mr Booth does have significant learning difficulties.
"He lives in a closely monitored environment which may be why, unusually, the prosecution do not seek a sexual harm prevention order in this case.
"Mr Booth no longer has a laptop computer, and he doesn't want to have one ever again.
"He is content to use a smartphone, which the staff in his sheltered accommodation can monitor."
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton sentenced Booth to a community order of 18 months, including 33 rehabilitation activity days.
The judge told him: "I accept you have severe learning difficulties, although you were able to search for and find this material.
"It is more in the interests of society for you to be treated within the community than for you to serve what would be a short sentence."
Booth must register as a sex offender for 10 years.