Judge Stephen Ashurst explained that he could only have sent 18-year-old Christian Butterfield into custody for “a matter of weeks” for his offending and he did not think that offered proper protection for the public.
Instead, Judge Ashurst made Butterfield the subject of a community rehabilitation order for two years and also ordered him to register as a sex offender with the police for the next five years.
But the judge, sitting at Bradford Crown Court, refused to impose a sexual offences prevention order which would have limited Butterfield’s use of the internet.
Judge Ashurst said such orders should be passed where there was a potential risk of “serious harm” to the public, but added: “I’m not satisfied that criteria, that threshold, has been satisfied.”
He told Butterfield: “Because I have taken the risk of passing a community sentence rather than taking what, in some respects, I regard as the soft option of locking you up for a short period of time, I would expect any breach of the order to be referred to me.”
The court heard that Butterfield, of Norbreck Drive, Crossroads, Keighley, was 17 when he downloaded a total of 583 indecent images of youngsters between December 2003 and April last year.
Prosecutor Jayne Beckett said the images were discovered by his mother.
She took him to Airedale Hospital because of concerns over his actions and drinking and eventually the police were informed about his offending.
In May the computer was seized and the images were retrieved by a specially trained officer.
The court heard that some of the images were duplicated, but about a quarter of them showed scenes of serious abuse. Barrister Jonathon Rose, for Butterfield, urged the judge to pass a community-based sentence on his client.
Butterfield, who had no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to 20 sample offences of possessing indecent images of children and Judge Ashurst said he took account of the fact that the images downloaded were freely available on the internet without the teenager having to subscribe to hold them.
But Judge Ashurst said a quarter of the images amounted to extremely serious offences and pointed out that the younger the girls involved, the more grave the offending.