A FATHER posed as a teenage girl on Facebook and downloaded more than 3,000 indecent images of children, a court heard.
Graham Andrew Stinton, 50, created an online alter-ego for himself and pretended to be 14-year-old Hanna Simpson.
Chester Crown Court heard he struck up conversations with other men who shared his sexual interests including some who were also pretending to be teenage girls.
Father-of-two Stinton was caught out when an email address he created as ‘Hanna’ was found to be uploading indecent images onto social networks.
Gordon Hennell, prosecuting, told the court an American-based centre informed the police and the email account was traced to Stinton’s then home address.
Police went to the house in November, 2011 but Stinton was not at home and his wife and children were unaware of the email address.
Mr Hennell said Stinton, now of Willow Grove, Ellesmere Port, then arrived and officers asked him about the email address.
“He initially denied it but very soon after admitted it,” said Mr Hennell.
“It is right to say that from the very outset he admitted everything.”
Police seized computer equipment from the family home and discovered 3,244 images and 228 videos of girls aged between three and 13-years-old.
Nine further obscene images were found on a mobile phone belonging to Stinton, who admitted 17 counts of possessing indecent images and videos of children between June, 2010 and November, 2011.
Mr Hennell told the court some of the images were level four and five – the most extreme – and showed sexual activity between young girls and men.
“He admitted making up the relevant email addresses and using them to upload images onto Tagged and Facebook,” he said.
“It appears lots of men interested in this did exactly the same thing.”
Stinton told police he had downloaded the images to make the Hanna profile “more interesting” to other Facebook users.
Mr Hennell said: “There was evidence from Facebook he had initiated conversations with other users.”
But he added there was no evidence Stinton had ever tried to communicate with any children.
Andrew Thomas, defending, told the court Stinton’s relationship with his wife and children had collapsed once his offences came to light.
“Mr Stinton has demonstrated genuine guilt, shame and disgust at what he has done,” said Mr Thomas.
He said Stinton had been voluntarily attending sex offenders’ sessions with child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
Judge Roger Dutton said the seriousness of the offence meant Stinton was facing prison but he had decided to suspend his sentence.
Judge Dutton said the fact Stinton came clean straight away and had been attending sessions with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation counted in his favour.
He said an immediate prison sentence would mean he would not get help to prevent him reoffending.
Stinton was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and told he would have to sign the sex offenders’ register for the next 10 years.
He was also made the subject of a two-year supervision order requiring him to complete the Northumbria Sex Offender Groupwork Programme and an indefinite sexual offences prevention order banning him from accessing pornography and imposing stringent conditions on his future internet use.
The judge warned Stinton he would be sent straight to jail if he commits any offences in the next two years or fails to comply with the court orders.