A MAN aged 78, of previous “exemplary character”, was jailed over his “active” interest in indecent child images.

Raymond Cockburn downloaded hundreds of images, some featuring very young children in obvious states of distress, while he also distributed one video featuring such material to a like-minded individual.

Durham Crown Court heard that he came to the attention of cyber-crime investigators after suspicions were reported over his computer search engine activity.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, said: “He had been active in a social media forum in which child abuse was discussed.”

Examination of a laptop revealed 384 offending images, 159 in the most serious category, amassed between 2014 and August last year.

Mr Harley said more than 40 were videos, of up to 34 minutes in duration.

Cockburn, of Shepherd’s Court, Gilesgate, Durham, admitted three counts of making, and one of distribution of indecent images of children, plus one of possessing extreme pornography.

Robert Newcombe, mitigating, said: “Until this offending Mr Cockburn was a man of exemplary character.”

Mr Newcombe said he earned a commendation during a working stint in Northern Ireland, “in his chosen career”.

“This offending was spread over a long period, but it’s not a case of him spending hours and hours on the computer at a time.

“It began when he was looking for music and something was sent to him by accident which he felt compelled to look at.”

Mr Newcombe added that the defendant spends much of his time caring for his wife, who is said to be in poor health.

Jailing him for a year, Recorder Caroline Wigin said despite his age and previous good character she could not avoid an immediate prison sentence given the nature of some of the images.

Cockburn was also made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and registration as a sex offender, both for ten years.