A PERVERT has been jailed for possessing thousands of images of children subjected to “all types of sexual degradation”.

Benjamin John Ashman, 37, had admitted having nearly 20,000 indecent images and nearly 650 movies at levels 1-5 - the most extreme - and also had 75 still and moving images involving animals.

Judge Peter Johnson and the prosecution and defence counsel viewed some of the images in chambers during the hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday.

Sentencing Ashman to 18 months' imprisonment, the Judge said: “They involve some children who are babes in arms, numerous victims of all types of sexual degradation, clearly in distress.

“They are the true innocent victims in this.”

Ashman, of Hyde Road, Bournemouth, was living in Verwood at the time of the offences between January 2010 and August 2012.

He had also pleaded guilty to taking and distributing an image of a young child crawling on all fours, and distributing four other lower-level images online via a file sharing site.

Prosecutor Stuart Ellacott said Ashman, a self-employed cleaning products salesman, had sent the photograph he took to another man, and he read out an exchange of texts between the pair in which Ashman described getting the picture as “fun”.

In a later message he invited the man over for “special stuff”.

In mitigation, Nicholas Robinson said that, at the time of the offences, Ashman's husband was “away a lot”, he was “in drink more often than he should have been”, and he “found himself in an online community”.

“He has no previous convictions, he has shown remorse,” he said.

However Judge Johnson told Ashman the time to show remorse was when the police were investigating his crimes and he refused to divulge passwords for his encrypted documents.

Ashman, who changed his name to Luke Smith but later changed it back again, was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years, and made subject to an indefinite sexual offences prevention order restricting his access to children and computers.

He pleaded not guilty to a further charge of distributing a level 4 movie and no evidence was offered by the Crown.

Dorset Police's POLIT investigation

He was caught as a result of a focused investigation carried out by an officer from Dorset Police’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT).

Ashman was identified after another police force informed Dorset POLIT that he had been in conversation with another convicted sex offender with a recovered conversation being found on a computer.

This was the largest child indecent image case ever investigated by Dorset Police and required a dedicated team due to the sensitivity and specialised investigative methods used.

Detectives from POLIT and Dorset Police’s High Tech Crime Unit spent hours analysing extreme and horrific material of the worst classification of abuse found on Ashman’s computer.

Director of Public Protection, Acting Detective Superintendent Chris Naughton said: “We are using technology to combat offenders who use the internet as weapon to attack and abuse children.

“We will track you, we will arrest you and we will convict you with the severest sentence at our disposal.

“I also urge those abusing children to seek professional help from either their GP or another professional organisation such as Stop it Now! of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

“Targeting criminals in cyber space and safeguarding children from serious harm remains a priority for Dorset Police in 2014 and beyond.”

The Paedophile Online Investigation Team can be contacted on 101. In an emergency always dial 999.