A MAN who distributed indecent images of children over the internet has been jailed for 20 months.

Stephen Hopkins had more than 35,000 images including a 23-minute movie of an eight-year-old being abused.

The 32-year-old also had pictures and films of children ‘virtually from newborn upwards’ in his huge collection.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court Hopkins was caught following an investigation by police in Italy.

They found his computer had been used to distribute child abuse images online via the Gigatribe sharing software.

And when police arrested him at his work in November 2010, he told them “It’s me. I’m sorry, I can’t help it”.

Mr Meeke said he was interviewed before his machines were examined and he admitted that there would be indecent images on them.

When experts looked at his computer they found he had been allowing ‘friends’ with Gigatribe to access his collection.

In October 2009, a correspondent downloaded 14 images from him, returning a few months later for 24 more, and in July 2010 another of his 54 ‘friends’ got 64 indecent images from him.

When he was spoken to again by the police he said that he had “swapped material because that was the convention”.

Mr Meeke said the downloading had been going on since early 2001, only ending in November 2010 when he was arrested.

Hopkins, of Speedwell Close, Haydon Wick, pleaded guilty to three counts of distribution, 14 of making and one of possessing indecent images of children.

He also admitted possessing extreme pornography and prohibited images of children.

Nicholas Wragg, defending, said the offending had been going for his client’s entire adult life. He said he had started by looking for adult porn but became obsessed with collecting indecent images of children.

Using the Gigatribe software he found it was difficult to download from others unless he made some of his material available.

He said he made the ‘fateful’ decision to allow other to access a portion of his collection so he could satisfy his need to collect.

Mr Wragg said: “He had no interest in distribution: his interest was with accruing.”

He said his client, who had a degree in engineering, had now stopped accessing the material after two years awaiting the court hearing.

Judge Euan Ambrose said: “You wished to avail yourself of other people’s collections and make them available to you, but in order to do make those available to you in file sharing software you needed something to be made available to them.

“On the occasions set out in the indictment they did take advantage of that opportunity. That is the distribution.”

As well as jailing him for 20 months, he ruled he must abide by a sexual offences prevention order for life and register as a sex offender for 10 years.