A former soldier from Carlisle who flouted a suspended sentence order after he admitted offences linked to online child abuse has been spared from prison.

Even though Paul Douglas Bailey, 49, had an eight-month jail term hanging over his head, he broke the terms of his sentence by deleting thousands of ‘items’ from his computer and by going abroad without telling the police.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that the defendant wiped 7,656 files from his computer after viewing ‘legal pornography’ – but such actions were specifically prohibited by his earlier sentence.

Prosecutor Sarah Wait told Recorder Philip Grundy the defendant, who had travelled to Belgium in December of last year, was guilty of a “deliberate breach” of his sentence, though she conceded it was neither serious nor minor.“There is no evidence that any indecent images of children have been found,” she said.

The breach of the Sex Offender Register rule to notify the police of foreign travel was accepted as minor and there was no evidence during his “short trip” of illegal activity or contact with children. The original offences committed by Bailey involved him stealing children’s underwear and engaging in obscene online child abuse chats.

This came to light after Cumbria Police were tipped off by South Wales Police, whose officers traced a computer IP address to Bailey’s Linton Street home in Carlisle.

Police seized his electronic devices and bags containing children’s underwear – some of it stolen. Indecent images of children were found on his computer, including a video classed in category A, the most serious.

Defence lawyer Jeff Smith said there was clearly more work to be done with the defendant.

In court, Recorder Grundy said it would not be appropriate to lock up Bailey, who admitted breaching his suspended sentence order and the Sex Offender Register travel notification requirement.

The judge noted that a previous Probation officer’s assessment that Bailey posed a “low risk” of reoffending was sadly mistaken but a community order would provide “constructive” punishment, he said.

The judge imposed a 36-month community order, with 25 rehabilitation activity days and a sex offender treatment programme. The Recorder will review the defendant’s progress on the order in a year’s time.