A MARRIED dad searched for “incest” on the internet, a court heard.

Police were notified that an IP address matching James Smith’s Swindon property had uploaded indecent images of children to social media site Chat Step in 2017.

But it wasn’t until two years later that officers visited the 47-year-old’s home, prosecutor Ellen McAnaw told Swindon Crown Court.

They trawled his digital devices, uncovering 162 indecent images of children in category A and 87 videos. He had 282 images and videos in category B and 328 in category C.

Smith’s vile collection – built up over several years – included images of children as young as two or three years old. Ms McAnaw said the dad-of-one had been searching for terms like “incest” and had also installed TOR software designed to mask his internet use.

Sentencing him, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “I see a man before me today who is genuinely contrite about what he’s done and I don’t believe the tears coming from your eyes...are actually crocodile tears.”

He added: “I hope that you have now begun to realise because of the work that you have done that the nature of what you were engaged in was abhorrent.

“Doing it online might make it seem more remote and less real, but that is a myth. Your actions perpetuate the misery that these children endure.

“They are real and to quote [what you said] to the probation officer, although the internet might not judge...this court must.”

Imposing 14 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years and ordering Smith complete a rehabilitation programme, Judge Taylor said his sentence should not be seen as lessening the seriousness of the offence.

He said: “The purpose behind my sentence is that you never do it again. You need to know that if you do that and you breach this suspended sentence order you will go to prison.”

Smith, now of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to three counts of possession of indecent images of children. He has no previous convictions.

Nicholas Wragg, mitigating, said his client was remorseful and had taken part in a number of courses with charities including the Lucy Faithfull Foundation aimed at tackling his behaviour. 

Judge Taylor ordered that Smith complete 35 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £425 in costs. He must abide by a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and register as a sex offender.