A married paedophile who amassed a ‘colossal’ number of sick images of children was downloading incident material in his study when police turned up at his house.
Stephen Steadman, 57, downloaded hundreds of thousands of obscene images at the home he shares with his wife in Stockport.
The recovery of indecent material by police in September 2018 was dubbed one of the ‘biggest caches’ ever seized by GMP.
A judge at Minshull Street Crown Court branded the case ‘concerning’ and ‘rare’ due to the vast number of photographs, which are believed to have been downloaded over a period of 15 years.
The court heard that on September 21, 2018, police executed a warrant at Steadman’s home on Bancroft Close in Bredbury.
As officers arrived at his house, Steadman was in the process of downloading indecent material in his study, prosecutor Roger Brown said.
“There were a number of devices including computers, laptops, hard drives and SD cards, all of which were seized,” Mr Brown added.
“The amount of offending material was colossal.”
It took police until December 9, 2019, to fully analyse the material. The court heard some images still haven’t been analysed due to the sheer number.
Officers were able to recover 88,830 category C images; 37,692 category B images; and 24,110 category A images.
A further 129 extreme images were also found, as well as 255 prohibited photographs.
During his police interview, Steadman told officers he had been downloading indecent images of children for the last 10 to 12 years, Mr Brown told the court.
Some images were of infants.
Steadman’s barrister Steven McHugh said his client is the sole career of his wife, who suffers from a physical illness.
“My client has said to me on every occasion that he deserves to be sent to prison,” Mr Hugh said.
“He has still not told his wife there is a realistic prospect of him not returning today. He is her sole carer on a daily basis and provides 24-hour care which is extremely difficult to replicate.
“He is not bothered about the prospect of custody, but he is bothered about what will happen to his wife.”
Steadman was sentenced to 14 months in prison, suspended for 18 months after admitting three counts of making indecent images of children; and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image.
Judge Angela Nield said she was able to suspend Steadman’s term of imprisonment due to his ability for rehabilitation – and the responsibilities he has for his wife.
“This has been a case which has caused this court great concern. It is sadly not unusual to see people before this court charged with these offences,” she said.
“In your case, what has concerned the court has been the extreme volume of such images – even taking into account your own admission that these images were looked at by you over a very long period of time.
“It is rare to see so many images or to hear officers say they have given up looking because there are so many images.
“Some of these images were of extremely young children, including babies. It is difficult to see, on any level how, anyone could find pleasure or satisfaction from the viewing of this material.”
Steadman was ordered to complete 40 days of rehabilitation, and was made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
He will also be subject to a notification requirement for 10 years and will be banned from working with children or vulnerable adults.