TWO sex offenders who used sophisticated computer technology to swap indecent images of young children and hide their tracks have been spared jail.

Simon Cater and David Elliott were given suspended sentences by Judge Peter Armstrong, despite the judge admitting there were a number of aggravating features in their case.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said police searched Cater's Darlington home on January 25 last year.

Elliott was also present and was on a sofa with two laptops and a mobile phone.

The pair were both arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images.

Police found 4,670 indecent images in total in the possession of Cater - on a laptop, a number of DVDs and on a USB memory stick.

He had also used a file sharing program to download and make indecent images from the internet.

Officers also searched Elliott's flat in Newcastle, recovering a further collection of indecent images, 224 in total.

On his computer investigators found forensic tools used to wipe any trace of the images and his internet footprint.

Both admitted 16 counts of making indecent photos and one each of possessing indecent photos.

Elliott, 54, of Park Row, Newcastle, who had been previously jailed for sex offences, was “truly remorseful”. He claimed not to have used a computer since his arrest.

Cater, 42, of Stanton Court, Darlington, who had no previous convictions, was ashamed and very keen to receive assistance with a problem he acknowledged.

Judge Peter Armstrong said the aggravating features had been the sophistication in the way the images were stored and the use of “anti-forensic” software, but said he could suspend the sentences.

Cater received a six month jail sentence, suspended for two years and Elliott 12 months for two years.

Both men will undergo sex offender treatment programs and be barred from working with children or having unsupervised contact with them.