Paedophile who collected half a million images of child sex abuse avoids jail

Robert Swanepoel was caught with thousands of child sex abuse images (SWNS)

A paedophile who collected almost half a million images of child sex abuse has avoided jail.

Robert Swanepoel, 35, from Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon, had so many images that authorities only managed to categorise about 47,000 pictures and video clips, leaving a further 400,000.

He spent four and a half years trawling the internet for child sex abuse content, using search terms such as “young little girls”.

He later described his actions as “like a drug addiction”.

Swanepoel was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years at Swindon Crown Court on Monday.

The court heard his collection was saved on a Toshiba laptop, an Acer computer, a Firestorm hard drive and a Kingston USB stick.

Some files had been encrypted and the collection had been sorted into categories.

Swanepoel was caught by detectives in November 2018 with more than 21 hours' worth of abuse videos as well as the images.

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He admitted making 34 category A indecent images of children - which includes images depicting rape - 126 still images and 45 videos in category B and 46,430 images and 168 movies in category C.

He also had 34 prohibited images of children.

Emma Handslip, defending, told Swindon Crown Court her client had grown increasingly isolated –despite holding down a job at the same company for 15 years.

She said: "This is somebody who has had a very, very difficult and challenging life from a very young age.

"This is not an excuse for his behaviour but perhaps an explanation to the court about why he’s become isolated."

Robert Swanepoel was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court, Wiltshire (PA)

She added that Swanepoel had confessed at the earliest opportunity during his interview with detectives.

Ms Handslip pointed to the conclusions of a pre-sentence report compiled by the probation service, saying there was a realistic likelihood Swanepoel could be rehabilitated and kept out of prison.

Judge Jason Taylor QC said: "There were a further 400,000 images and videos that were not reviewed given the sheer number.

"But the aggravating features involved in the case was that you had made searches, there were multiple victims, some of a very young age, your offending lasted over a four and a half year period and you had even taken the time to categorise the images some in encrypted folders."

Swanepoel must complete 40 rehabilitation activity sessions and abide by a six-month curfew.

He was made subject to a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and will need to sign on to the sex offenders’ register for a decade.