A bus driver who kept more than 500,000 sex abuse images and took secret photos of child passengers has been spared jail.
Steven Knight, 48, was allowed to walk free by a judge who told him “no meaningful rehabilitation” is currently happening in prisons due to COVID restrictions.
Following Thursday’s sentencing at Worcester Crown Court, members of Knights own family broke down in tears and blasted the sentence, saying he should have been jailed.
Knight, of Bredon, Worcestershire, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
Knight admitted downloading a total of 541,835 pictures and videos between July 2015 and October last year.
Several of the images were the most serious category A while police also discovered photos he had secretly taken of schoolchildren who were on a bus he was driving.
He also doctored a woman’s Facebook profile picture with her baby to show him lying naked next to the pair.
Sentencing him at Worcester Crown Court, Judge Martin Jackson said COVID restrictions in prisons meant inmates were locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.
He said: “I have to sentence you for a series of offences many people – indeed I think any decent right-thinking person – would consider to be disgusting and abhorrent.
“Some of the category A images showed babies in extreme discomfort.
“Immediate custody at the moment is something that would achieve punishment but is unlikely to achieve rehabilitation.
“No meaningful rehabilitsation is being done (with prisoners) if it can be done at all.”
The court heard Knight became hooked on indecent images of children after his computer was hacked and pictures downloaded on to his desktop.
Siobhan Collins, prosecuting, said: “He said he had this material for his own pleasure and agreed he could properly be described as a paedophile.”
Knight admitted downloading 85 videos and 267 images of category A along with 60,000 uncategorised pictures on one computer.
On another device, the court heard Knight had amassed a staggering 481,000 uncategorised indecent images.
He also admitted making 194 category B pictures and 289 category C images as well as possessing extreme animal pornography.
Knight was also ordered to complete a 45-day rehabilitation activity and told to pay £300 in court costs.