A Rugby man downloaded indecent movies of children during a four-week period following the break-down off his marriage after he used a file-sharing site to get music and films.
A judge at Warwick Crown Court heard that Robert Mitchell had stopped downloading the illegal material, and deleted it more than a year before he was arrested.
Mitchell (38) of Finmere, Brownsover, Rugby, pleaded guilty to five charges of making indecent images of children.
He was given a community sentence with supervision for three years and was ordered to take part in an offending behaviour programme, to register as a sex offender for five years and to pay £1,200 costs.
Prosecutor Siobhan Collins said the police seized Mitchell’s computer and an external hard drive at his home in May last year.
On the computer, officers found three movies which showed girls aged from around 10 to 14.
Miss Collins pointed out that the movies were not readily accessible, having been deleted, and a file cleaner had been used to delete Mitchell’s internet search history.
On the external hard drive the officers found a further 21 films.
When Mitchell was questioned, he said he had accidentally encountered images of children while downloading adult porn, and had deleted them immediately.
When the files were subsequently examined, they were found to have names which made it clear they involved underage girls.
But when that was put to Mitchell, he claimed he had been ‘randomly clicking things’ to download, and had not noticed the graphic file names.
He said he could not explain how the images had got onto the external hard drive, and had not moved them there himself.
Miss Collins said she struggled to accept that, pointing out that even though they had been deleted, they must have been copied to the hard drive for them to have been there.
But Ben Gow, defending, explained that they had got onto the hard drive when Mitchell had carried out routine back-ups from his computer, and he had deleted them as soon as he realised they were there.
Mr Gow said there were 22 images in total, which he observed was ‘a very small number in the context of cases of this type,’ downloaded over a four-week period in 2013.
“He had stopped downloading these images over a year prior to his arrest, which is a significant detail because it shows it was not an on-going activity.
“The downloading occurred against the background of the collapse of his marriage. They had been together for 11 years and married for three when it collapsed at the end of 2012.
“It left him in a very black place, and he was being treated for depression.”
Sentencing Mitchell, Recorder Marcus Tregilgas-Davey told him: “The fact that they were movies aggravates the situation.
“These are not victimless crimes. They’re crimes which lead to the destruction of young people’s lives, the young people who have to appear in these movies.
“But because of the limited period for which you viewed these images, because you had stopped viewing them about a year before your arrest and, most importantly, because it seems to me the most effective sentence is one where you get assistance, I’m going to impose the order recommended in the pre-sentence report.”