A SOUTHAMPTON teenager was caught with “sickening” images of young girls and asked others to share them.

Ryan Maidment was caught with dozens of indecent images of some young girls – the youngest thought to be aged between four to six years old.

Now aged 20 Maidment, who was aged between 17 and 18 at the time of his offending, also “traded” images with other paedophiles via an online chat site and used a mobile application aimed at hiding private photographs or videos.

At Southampton Crown Court, he was given a suspended sentence.

The court heard how Maidment was arrested in May 2018 after police received information that an internet connection linked to his flat in International Way, was being used to share indecent images.

Police found more than 60 indecent images on his Samsung mobile phone, the majority of which were category C – the least serious category.

Officers also found moving images and that Maidment had shared images in group messaging chats.

This meant he had committed an offence of distributing indecent images – a more serious offence than possession.

Maidment admitted three counts of possession of indecent images, ranging from category A to C, and three counts of distributing indecent images, again ranging from category A to C.

In mitigation, Gemma White said Maidment was an “isolated” teenager at the time of the offences and had spent much of his time gaming.

She said Maidment had since managed to get a job, though did not disclose where, and had formed relationships and had began to socialise with his work colleagues.

She urged Judge Peter Henry to follow a pre-sentence report by the probation service recommending he suspended the sentence and allow Maidment to take on a programme aimed at helping paedophiles ¬– which he would not be able to access in prison.

In sentencing, Judge Peter Henry described the images as “sickening”.

He said: “Any right minded person will think someone like you deserves severe punishment.

“But on the other hand you are young, you have no previous convictions and you were, as I find, isolated in some sort of fantasy world.

“It’s clear the most serious offences took place when you were 17.”

He added: “I have to find the balance between the punishment best for the public interest against the best way to protect society.”

Judge Henry imposed an 18 month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He also put an “onerous” order of 160 hours of unpaid work, ordered Maidment to complete the Horizon programme and 20 days or rehabilitation activity requirement.

Maidment was also made the subject of notification requirements and a sexual harm prevention order and ordered to pay costs of £670.