A former police officer has escaped a prison sentence after he was caught with almost 9,000 indecent images of children.
Stephen McGoldrick, 50, resigned as a PC with Gloucestershire police after he was charged with making indecent images of children.
On Wednesday, McGoldrick, of Aberdare, south Wales, was sentenced to an 18-month community order with 40 days of rehabilitation and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Peter Blair QC, the Recorder of Bristol, also placed McGoldrick on the sex offender register for five years and made him the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for the same period.
Passing sentence at Bristol crown court, the judge said: “These were abhorrent images which I believe you now acknowledge and understand have real victims.
“You have fallen from grace in a massive way due to your former employment as a police officer. You have shown considerable remorse.
“You must understand that I impose this sentence because I have concluded there is a good prospect of rehabilitation which can be best achieved through a community order rather than a custodial sentence.
“You fall into a category where the public will be better served by this type of sentence.”
The court heard that images were recovered from a mobile phone belonging to McGoldrick when police were investigating a separate matter in April this year.
Further inquiries were carried out and search warrants were executed at addresses in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and in Aberdare, south Wales, in June.
Several electronic devices were recovered and, when they were examined, experts found a total of 8,519 indecent images – five at category A – the most serious kind.
McGoldrick, who joined Gloucestershire police in 2008, was suspended and resigned before he was charged in July and pleaded guilty to five counts of making indecent images at the magistrates court last month.
James Haskell, defending, said: “The convictions have already had significant consequences for him.
“He knows he has forever lost his good character and is ashamed to have put his family through what he has.”
Haskell explained that McGoldrick had gone through significant personal difficulties in recent years, supporting his partner financially through a protracted custody battle, leading to him accruing debts of £36,000.
The court heard McGoldrick also struggled to deal with his partner developing cancer, the death of his elder brother and his mother’s ill health.
“All of this left him at almost breaking point and led him to accessing illegal pornography,” Haskell said. “He knows it was wrong but was clearly in a very bad way and, in his own words, he was on a path to self-destruction.”