A volunteer youth worker who had built up a collection of 50,000 indecent photographs and images of young children has been jailed for five years.
Detectives seized the pictures at 40-year-old Brian Wilkinson’s home in Gorton, Greater Manchester, in September 2001.
Some of the material dated back 20 years and included images of local youngsters and children as young as six months.
Wilkinson was also involved in communicating through chat rooms on the internet about his obsession with children.
Wilkinson pleaded guilty to 41 specimen counts of possessing, making and distributing indecent photographs of children between August 1998 and September 2001.
After the sentencing at Manchester Crown Court on Friday, police said 50,000 images of child abuse were found at Wilkinson’s home along with a further 50,000 photographs.
It is believed to have been the biggest seizure of such material in the UK.
After the case a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “There were so many photographs and images we actually had to stop counting.”
The court was told that many of the images and photographs were of youngsters from Manchester and Bolton.
The images showed children – some as young as six-months-old – naked or involved in sexual acts with male adults, the court heard.
Wilkinson was arrested by police after he was seen filming youngsters in a park.
The court was told he was detained by security officers at the park.
Detectives searched Wilkinson’s home and recovered thousands of images, the majority of which were of children aged between five and 14.
Passing sentence, Judge Michael Henshell jailed Wilkinson for five years for distributing indecent photographs of children, six months for possession and two years for making the images.
All the sentences are to run concurrently.
The judge said he had no hesitation in sending Wilkinson to jail, because if he did not “the general public would be rightly horrified”.
He said: “It is abominably clear that you are a paedophile. You are attracted to children of both sexes.”
The judge said the distribution of the images was the most serious offence.
“You have distributed some images over the internet, not for commercial reasons but for others who share your perverted interest,” he said.
Wilkinson was also banned from working with children and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.
Outside court, Detective Constable Andrea Bradley, of Greater Manchester Police’s abusive images unit, said: “This is the largest and most disturbing collection of images I have investigated and it clearly illustrates the extent of Wilkinson’s unhealthy interest in children.
“We cannot deny that the development of the internet has led to an increase in this type of crime and with the introduction of digital photography it has become easier for predators to create their own collection.
“However, it has also made it easier for the police to track and monitor the activity of these individuals over the internet and obtain strong evidence of this activity.”