A teenager began collecting child sex abuse images when he was just 12-years-old, a court heard.

Bailey Thompson, 18, had almost 1,200 indecent and prohibited images shared across his computer, phone, tablet and hard-drive.

But the teenager was spared an immediate jail sentence after Judge Jason Taylor QC heard he had fully cooperated with the police, had no previous convictions and would have been dealt with by the youth court had his case not been adjourned as a result of the pandemic.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lee told Swindon Crown Court that Wiltshire Police was tipped off by the National Crime Agency an IP address linked to Thompson’s Swindon home had been uploading indecent images online.

When detectives went to his house in August last year, the boy – then 17 – admitted having viewed the illegal material and offered up the devices on which the images and videos were later found.

Analysis of his computer tower, Samsung mobile phone, iPad and hard-drive revealed 213 images and videos in category A, 142 in category B, 351 in category C and 483 prohibited images of children.

Most of the images showed primary school-aged children. Among the vile cache were videos showing young children being raped. Around 30 per cent of the images were duplicates.

He told police he had begun looking at indecent images in 2014, when he was just 12-years-old. Initially, he had been looking at images of children his own age.

Thompson had trawled Google for the sick material, but moved onto using specialist programmes to search the dark web.

Defending, John Simmons said his client had been due to appear before the youth court in April 2020, with police officers trying to speed the case through the system.

However, the court hearing had to be adjourned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and it wasn’t until September, four months after his 18th birthday, that he had appeared before the magistrates.

The consequences of that delay would likely last the rest of his life, it was said. Had he been dealt with aged 17 a different set of sentencing guidelines would have applied and his conviction would have been spent once he’d served his sentence. Mr Simmons emphasised that the police officers dealing with the case had done their best to bring the matter to court quickly.

Judge Taylor remarked: “There are so many consequences from the delay in the system. It is sad for somebody who did this when they were a youth and could have been dealt with in the youth court but for the wheels of justice turning slowly. It’s had massive ramifications.”

Mr Simmons said his client was open to working with the authorities, was now in a relationship and felt “much better about life”. He had no previous convictions.

Thompson, now of Tortworth, South Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of indecent images and one charge of possessing prohibited images of children.

Sentencing Thompson to eight months suspended for two years, Judge Taylor said it was “wholly right” to suspend the prison sentence, citing the defendant’s strong personal mitigation, the delay in the case coming to court and the prospect he could be rehabilitated.

As part of his sentence he must complete the sex offender treatment programme, up to 55 rehabilitation days and 175 hours of unpaid work. He was made subject to a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and must register as a sex offender for 10 years.