A man caught with pictures of young girls naked on a beach said he was “addicted” to indecent images of children.

David Potts ran a programme to wipe his files four times after learning police were on his trail in June last year.

And it emerged he was wanted by authorities in the US for allegedly downloading thousands of indecent images while he lived in America several years ago.

But the 65-year-old walked from the dock with a two year community order after a judge at Swindon Crown Court heard he was remorseful and had sought help from experts.

Prosecutor David Maunder told the court police had been tipped off last year that an IP address linked to Potts’ then home in Cranwell Close, Chippenham, had been downloading illegal images.

On May 31, a constable was sent to his house in Chippenham and another property in Corsham to which he had links. When they couldn’t find him, the officer rang Potts up. He told the PC he was on his way to Weymouth with his partner and would be back after the weekend.

Two detectives returned to his house on June 3 and seized various devices including a Lenovo computer. Two days later he handed over a hard drive and mobile phone. He answered no comment to questions put to him during his police interview.

When his devices were analysed, police found a cache of 19 indecent images of three girls aged around 11 to 13 posing naked at a beach. The same images had been copied to another hard drive.

There was evidence he’d used a specialist piece of software, called Cipher, to delete files. He’d run the programme three times on June 2 and once on June 3 – a couple of days after police told him they wanted to speak to him.

He had also installed a new operating system on the Lenovo computer. “I don’t believe there is any dispute that happened, what is in dispute is his state of awareness as to whether it was permissible or not,” Mr Maunder said.

Potts was charged with perverting the course of justice but denied the offence. Mr Maunder confirmed the Crown would offer no evidence.

Interviewed a second time by police he said he had told his partner there was adult pornography on the computer and she had asked him to remove it, hence why he had wiped the files four times. A statement from his partner challenged this account.

The court heard he had charges outstanding in the US, where he had previously lived, relating to the alleged downloading of thousands of illicit images of children. He had never been convicted of an offence and the US authorities had not sought to extradite him back to America – although he would likely be arrested if he returned to the country.

Potts had candidly admitted viewing child sex abuse images before. “He described it very frankly like an addiction,” Mr Maunder said. “He said he fights it all the time and was due to go on a course in May this year.”

Defending, Andrew Stone said his client had sought help from the relevant authorities to identify the problems he has and to deal with them.

He said: “He’s fully aware, he knows a lot more about the problem and how to avoid offending behaviour where it was, as he describes, an addiction – an addiction he still has to some extent. What he wants to do is work with the people who are going to free him from this.”

Mr Stone added: “He simply places himself before this court to say ‘please help’.”

Potts, of Mountain Ash Close, Colchester, pleaded guilty to possession of indecent images in category C.

Sentencing him to a two year community order, Judge Jason Taylor QC told Potts: “I am formally of the view that you would benefit from addressing your motivation as to why you committed this offence and it’s notable that your risk matrix score is too low to actually do any group work, which bodes well in your favour.”

He was fined £3,000 and must complete 30 rehabilitation days. A five year sexual harm prevention order limits his access to the internet and he must sign on to the sex offenders’ register for five years.