A businessman who used the dark web to download images of girls as young as four being abused has been sent on a sex offenders’ treatment course.

Bryan Horrocks was traced to his family home in Bideford by police because of his online activity on social media and file sharing sites.

They found he had also been using an anonymous dark web browser to search for images of young girls suffering very serious abuse.

Business consultant Horrocks, aged 51, who now lives elsewhere in the town, admitted three counts of making indecent images of children.

He was jailed for 18 months, suspended for two years and ordered to attend the Maps for Change sex offenders’ course as part of 40 days of rehabilitation activities.

He was ordered to pay £1,200 costs by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court, put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years, and made subject of a sexual harm prevention order which will enable the police to monitor his internet activity for 10 years.

The judge told him: “Each image was a recording of a child being abused sexually. You viewed them solely for your sexual gratification. That is utterly despicable.”

Edward Bailey, prosecuting, said police raided Horrocks’s home on April 23 last year. He indicated they would find illegal material on a phone and a laptop.

Experts retrieved nine images in the worst category A, 66 in B and 76 in the lowest category C. Most showed girls aged four to six and search terms showed he had been seeking illegal websites.

Mr Bailey said: “He stated he quickly became hooked and addicted to accessing and viewing the material.”

Jason Beal, defending, said Horrocks has completed a course with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which has given him insight into his behaviour and ways to prevent his addiction resurfacing.

He has already been punished by the loss of his previous good character and reputation and the break-up of his marriage. He has demonstrated remorse through the steps he has taken to change his attitudes and actions