A COMPANY boss, whose firm claims to have worked with the likes of Saints FC and Top Gear, videoed himself with a "child-like" sex doll.

Joe Hale, who founded lighting and effects firm SFX Events, was also caught with hundreds of images of child sex abuse.

A court heard some of the girls in the pictures were as young as four.

But the 32-year-old, who lives in Ferndown, was spared an immediate custodial sentence at Southampton Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard Hale, a first time offender, was willing to work with rehabilitation services.

The court was also told how going to prison would impact on work for his company's sub-contractors.

Prosecutor Dawn Hyland told the court that Hale had come to the attention of police in 2017.

Officers visited Hale's home, then in Pennington, Lymington, on February 6.

They seized his work and home laptop, as well as a mobile phone and a laptop belonging to his girlfriend.

Police were unable to access Hale's work laptop, which was encrypted, but found indecent images on his home laptop and Samsung mobile phone.

Ms Hyland told the court that more than 400 indecent images were found, of which 31 were category A images – the most serious kind.

She added that police also found moving images of Hale performing a sex act on a "child-like" sex doll.

Ms Hyland added: "The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) say this shows that the defendant has acted upon his sexual interest in children."

Mitigating for Hale, Damian Hayes said his client "ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour".

He said Hale was the founder and company director of a lighting production company, which works within the entertainment industry – including festivals and events.

Mr Hayes said the company did not directly employ staff, but that jailing Hale would impact on nearly a dozen regular subcontractors who he was providing with work.

He added that Hales was willing to work with the Probation Service on rehabilitation and had already contacted charity the Lucy Faithful Foundation to ask for help.

In sentencing Hale, who pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images and one count of making pseudo-images of children, Judge Gary Burrell QC said: "You have an interest in young girls, as young as four.

"The children you have been looking at are being abused. You have looked at them for your own sexual gratification.

"It is illegal and it is also immoral."

Judge Burrell sentenced Hale, of St Just Close, Ferndown, to 15 months in prison, which he suspended for two years.

He also urged Hale to seek out treatment, ordered him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days and made him the subject of a five year sexual harm prevention order.

Hale will also be subject to licence requirements for 10 years.

According to the SFX Events website, the company are one of the UK's leading suppliers of special effects, lighting, AV and sound equipment and branches out across the UK.

On its website, the company lists hit TV show Top Gear among its clients, as well as sci-fi series Doctor Who and renowned music festival Boardmasters.

According to Companies House, Hale is the director of SFX Events and SFX Productions – the latter of which claims to have worked with Saints FC.