A COMPANY boss, whose firm claims to have worked with the likes of Saints and hit show Top Gear, videoed himself performing a sex act upon a “child-like” sex doll.

Joe Hale, who founded lighting and effects firm SFX Events, was also caught with hundreds of images of child sex abuse.

A court heard some of the girls in the pictures were as young as four.

But the 32-year-old was spared an immediate custodial sentence at Southampton Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard Hale, a first time offender, was willing to work with rehabilitation services.

The court was also told how an immediate custodial sentence would impact his company’s sub-contractors.

Prosecutor Dawn Hyland told the court that Hale had come to the attention of police in 2017 and officers visited Hale’s home, then in Pennington, on February 6 that year.

They seized his work and home laptop, as well as a mobile phone and a laptop belonging to his girlfriend.

Police were unable to access Hale’s work laptop, which was encrypted, but found indecent images on his home laptop and Samsung mobile phone.

Ms Hyland told the court that more than 400 indecent images were found, of which 31 were category A images – the most serious kind.

She added that police also found moving images of Hale performing a sex act on a “child-like” sex doll.

Ms Hyland added: “The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) say this shows that the defendant has acted upon his sexual interest in children.”

Mitigating for Hale, Damian Hayes said his client was “ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour”.

He said Hale was the founder and company director of a lighting production company, which works within the entertainment industry.

Mr Hayes said the company did not directly employ staff, but that jailing Hale would impact on nearly a dozen regular subcontractors who he was providing with work.

In sentencing Hale, who pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images and one count of making pseudo-images of children, Judge Gary Burrell QC said:

"The children you have been looking at are being abused.

“It is illegal and immoral.”

Judge Burrell sentenced Hale, of St Just Close, Ferndown, Dorset, to 15 months in prison, which he suspended for two years.

He also urged Hale to seek out treatment, ordered him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation activity requirement day, the subject of a five year sexual harm prevention order. Hale will also be subject to licence requirements for 10 years.

According to the SFX Events website, the company are one of the UK’s leading suppliers of special effects, lighting, AV and sound equipment.

On its website, the company lists hit TV show Top Gear among its clients, as well as sci-fi series Doctor Who and music festival Boardmasters.

According to Companies House, Hale is the director of SFX Events and SFX Productions – the latter of which claims to have worked with Southampton FC.

A spokesperson for the club said it had ceased work with Hale’s firm last year for “unrelated reasons”.