A FORMER aerospace worker who downloaded more than 12,000 indecent images of children has been jailed.
Stephen Gale, from Bispham, pleaded guilty to 14 charges of possessing indecent images of children and four of distribution.
Preston Crown Court heard the 48-year-old had been made redundant from his job at BAE Systems and had seen his marriage ruined after he was caught downloading and distributing the images.
Gale, of Parsley Close, Bispham, had accessed more than 11,000 images of children at level one, the least serious category.
He had also got hold of more than 1,000 other illicit pictures at higher levels of seriousness and had distributed images at levels one, two, four and five.
Julie Taylor, defending, said he was “incredibly remorseful” about what he had done and had admitted everything.
She told the court it came as a huge relief to Gale when he was caught as the former aerospace worker knew he needed help to overcome what he saw as an addiction.
She said: “This is a sad case.
“He worked at BAE Systems and was made redundant because of this case.
“He has ruined his career and his marriage.
“In effect, he recognises he has destroyed any prospects he has for the future in terms of employment and lifestyle.
“The fact he was caught came as a huge relief.
“He knew he needed help to overcome what he saw as an addiction.”
Judge Heather Lloyd sentenced Gale to two years and four months in prison.
He will be on the sex offenders register for ten years and banned from working with children.
He will also be subject to a sexual offences prevention order, including conditions not to have unsupervised contact with any child under sixteen and not to use a device capable of internet access.
While passing sentence, Judge Lloyd said from reading a pre-sentence report by the probation service on Gale, it appeared he didn’t have much insight into the misery caused by the trade.
She said most defendants who appeared in court, for such offending, were middle aged men with previous good characters, people in employment and many had families.
“They are outwardly respectable and yet like you, they have this secret life”, she said.
Judge Lloyd told him: “Somewhere a child has had to be subjected to degradation for the pleasure of men like you.
“You say you only looked at pictures of teenagers. There are pictures of little children in these images and teenagers are children too.
“You have distributed images over a significant period of time. You have used a website which automatically shares images.
“In my judgment, there must be an immediate custodial sentence, because of the sheer volume of the images, the distribution and the tender years of those involved in some of them”.