Police raided a Carlisle man's home and found nearly a quarter of a million indecent images of children on his computer.

At the city's Rickergate magistrates' court, Michael John Webber, 58, admitted five offences relating to his sickening stash of obscene child images.

The case came as a national charity revealed a sharp rise in the number of Cumbrians who have sought help - either for themselves or a loved one - because of their interest in obscene child images.

In court yesterday, Webber, of Edgehill Road, Harraby, spoke only to confirm his name and to enter his guilty pleas to the five allegations. He admitted:

* downloading 1,499 Category A indecent child images - the most serious;

* downloading 3,484 Category B indecent child images;

* downloading 216,142 Category C indecent child images;

* possessing in total 221,489 indecent child images (the images detailed in the previous three charges);

* and possessing a grossly offensive extreme pornographic image involving a dog.

The offences were committed on various dates between February of 2016, and December last year. No further details of the offences were disclosed.

District Judge Gerald Chalk told Webber: "In view of the volume of images involved, I am going to send this case to the crown court. You will appear there on May 11. It's to your credit that you have pleaded guilty.

"But I take the view that in view of the volume and nature of the images that this case is more appropriately dealt with by the crown court."

The judge ordered a Probation Service background report on Webber.

After the hearing, it was revealed that the Lucy Faithfull Foundation - which runs a "Stop it now" campaign to prevent people viewing child abuse images online - saw a sharp rise in Cumbrians contacting it for help.

Last year, 243 people from the county turned to Stop It Now - a 30 per cent rise on the previous year.

Of those, 18 rang the charity's helpline. Across the UK, 36,443 called Stop it Now!

Deborah Denis, from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: "Unfortunately, there had been an explosion of these images online. We have seen the numbers go from thousands to millions.

"They are incredibly damaging.

"We've worked with men in the past who don't see what they are looking at as abusive. They'd say things like: 'The children were smiling' and 'They dont look like they're being harmed'.

"But we say that they have no idea what is going on behind the camera, or the circumstances which led to this. Survivors tell us their experience affects them for their entire lives."

For offenders too, she said, the consequences are devastating, putting at risk homes, jobs, and families. Offenders can face years in jail.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation's Stop It Now! helpline number offers confidential advice to people who want to challenge their own online behaviour, or to people concerned about a relative or friend.

The number is 0800 1000 900.