Freeing Edward Alexander Lee, Judge Gordon Kerr QC criticised the current sentencing guidelines that cite such cases be met by a period of imprisonment of between six months and a year.
This, he said, did not allow for any help being given to a defendant, or for protection of the public.
The Belfast Crown Court judge added that in those circumstances “of course, it’s all our fault (the judges) that it’s not done right”.
Lee, originally from Whitehall Square in Belfast, but now living in England, pleaded guilty to a total of 15 charges involving what is commonly referred to in court as child pornography, but in reality are images and videos of children of all ages being sexually abused.
In the case, Lee was described by his wife as a “loving and normal young man”
Judge Kerr told Lee while he’d viewed the images for his “own strange pleasure”, they were serious matters as “children were abused for these images to be made”.
He added that children would continue to be abused while people like him continued to view and watch such material, but that “society would not tolerate such behaviour”.
Judge Kerr said it seemed to him that a sentence of up to a year in jail would do very little to assist either him or the community.
Placing Lee on probation, he ordered him to complete a course on sexual offending which may help him stop viewing such images, and ultimately prove more protection for society.
Earlier, prosecutor Simon Jenkins said that when police went to Lee’s Belfast home on June 5, 2014, he immediately confirmed he was the man they were looking for.
Police uncovered a number of folders on seized computer equipment which Lee admitted making, arranging them either by date or subject.
During interview Lee later admitted that he had been downloading images “for perhaps the last nine years”.