A Barnstaple plumber who downloaded child abuse images has been brought back to Britain after he fled the country and was arrested in Latvia.

Paul Phillips, 38, of Hawley Manor, Barnstaple, sold his home and his business and jumped bail when he was arrested for making indecent images of children.

He was arrested on an international warrant at Riga airport as he tried to board a flight to Ireland.

Phillips spent three weeks in jail in Latvia before being sent back to Britain, where he appeared at Exeter Crown Court in custody.

He admitted three counts of making indecent images of children and was jailed for 12 months, suspended for two years, by Recorder Paul Dunkels, QC.

Phillips was sent on a sex offenders treatment programme, put on the sex offenders’ register and made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.

This restricts his contact with children and allows the police to monitor his use of the internet.

Mr Dunkles told him: “This was appalling material which is was disgraceful to be in possession of.

“I take into account the fact that you have spent nearly two months in custody, firstly in Latvia, and I don’t suppose that was a pleasant experience.”

Hollie Gilbery, prosecuting, said Phillips was traced because he email address was used to download images, and he was found with a total of 1,693 stills or movies.

These included 254 in the highest category, effectively depicting child rape. One of these was a movie showed serious abuse of a girl aged about two.

Kelly Scrivener, defending, said Phillips had not been trying to escape justice when he sold his business and home and went to Latvia.

She said he had gone to try to effect a reconciliation with his Latvian partner, who had gone home to her parents after his arrest.

She said Phillips planned to come back to Britain via Ireland to hand himself in; he recognised he has a problem and wants to work with the probation service to address it.