A PAEDOPHILE has been jailed for downloading indecent images from a recipe website.

Alistair Cook, 49, of Jubilee Court, Fareham, pleaded guilty to possessing thousands of photos and videos of children being abused - including some at the most serious level.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard that Cook was arrested when police learnt that a recipe website had been hacked and was being used to distribute indecent images of children.

They found that those images had been accessed by Cook and as a consequence, officers seized two pieces of computer equipment at his home.

The court heard that the offences before the court were “the tip of a rather large iceberg” and the number of images on Cook's computers could be as many as 45,000 - but only a fraction of them have been examined due to the numbers involved.

One of the pieces of equipment had four videos and 41 pictures classed as “level five” - the most serious classification of child abuse images.

Prosecutor Tammy Mears told the court that the images were of children under the age of 14 and was a “collection that has been built up over six years”.

The court heard that a pre-sentence report showed that Cook did not recognise that he was harming children by downloading the images.

In mitigation, defence solicitor Barry McElduff said that some of his family believed he may have undiagnosed autistic disorder, and since his arrest he had contacted a helpline to talk about the factors behind his behaviour.

He added: “He is slowly coming to terms with what's blatantly obvious - by downloading this material you're contributing to the harm of children.”

Sentencing him to nine months in prison, Judge Patrick Hooton said: “I don't know whether you have come to realise that downloading these images, looking at these images can only help encourage and support a vile industry which obliges children to take part in sexual acts and on many occasions causes suffering.

“It's a massive industry which has caused untold suffering - anyone that takes part in it has helped to create it.

“You must appreciate that that is the case.”

Along with the prison sentence, Cook was handed a sexual offences prevention order, restricting his access to the internet and to children under the age of 16, for an indefinite period.

He was also told to sign the sex offenders register for ten years.