A man who admitted having a 'dark side' was spared jail after being caught with hundreds of vile indecent pictures and videos.

Police uncovered the sick images, some including prohibited images of children, on Viktor Smirnovs' devices at his home in Warrington. An investigation was launched, but Smirnov 'could not be found' after returning to his Latvian homeland.

Liverpool Crown Court was told how, when he eventually returned, police went back to his home and found he had downloaded even more of the vile pictures and videos. Smirnov admitted to a probation officer 'that his behaviour was wrong and he has a dark side'.

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Prosecutor Chris Hopkins said officers went to his home on April 4, 2019, as a result of suspected internet activity. They seized a laptop, phone and four electronic storage devices.

"There was evidence of searching for the material on the computer and images were created and stored between 2016 and 2019", Mr Hopkins said.

After the devices had been examined attempts were made to speak to the defendant 'he could not be found', the prosecutor added. He was circulated as wanted and was arrested after returning from Latvia on June 12 last year.

"Two further devices were seized when he was arrested and they had indecent images on them", Mr Hopkins said. "In other words he had been at it again."

Smirnovs was found to have downloaded hundreds of sick pictures and videos - including some prohibited images of children. Some of the pictures fell into the most serious category.

Paul Wood, defending, said the defendant had 'found it difficult facing to why he had been looking at these images, a more sinister side to his personality'. "He clearly has a deep rooted problem for which he needs some form of rehabilitation," Mr Wood told the court.

Viktor Smirnovs was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

"He had a difficult time recently with his mother’s illness and father's death. He suffered trauma as a child which he thinks may be linked to his current offending behaviour."

The court heard Smirnovs had a previous conviction for possessing cannabis and had been cautioned for a similar offence and for battery. Mr Wood said his immigration status was described as 'frozen'.

He added he was a 'hard-working man' with a partner. Smirnovs, of Watkin Street, Orford, admitted six offences involving possessing 807 indecent images including videos and downloading 690 such images in all three categories of seriousness.

The charges also included possessing 54 extreme pornographic photographs and videos and possessing five prohibited images of children. At Liverpool Crown Court, he was sentenced to 15 months in jail - suspended for two years.

The judge ordered him to carry out 45 days rehabilitation activities and 175 hours of unpaid work. He was also handed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and will be made to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

Judge Anil Murray told Smirnovs: "The probation officer is of the view that you are worth a chance and there is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation."

The judge added: "You have come very close to being sent straight to prison and if you breach the order it is almost inevitable this sentence will be activated."

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