A NEW father has avoided a spell in jail after being found in possession of over 300 indecent pictures and videos of underage children.

Zachary Baxendale appeared in front of a Judge at Preston Crown Court this week after being found guilty by a jury of being in possession of six category A images (the worst kind), 16 category B images and 328 category C images. He was also found guilty of one charge of distribution.

The 24-year-old, who was first arrested for the offences in 2017, continues to deny he had any knowledge of the material found on his devices.

Ordering Baxendale to attend a sex offender’s treatment programme and to carry out 120 hours unpaid work, Judge Richard Gioserano said there were several issues to consider when deciding what sentence to pass down on the Blackburn man.

“I do have to take into account your mitigation. However one feature of mitigation that is not present in your case is remorse. There is no remorse because you deny committing these offences – you continue to blame someone else,” Judge Gioserano said.

He added: “This is not uncommon in people in your position. They often have to be convicted by juries and even when they are, they still maintain innocence. That is because often people in your position recognise somethings are just too much to admit to friends and family, so it is better – even if it comes at the price of prison – to continue to deny it so that you can maintain that façade to friend and family in the hope they will stand by you.

“That in my judgement is what you are doing right now.”

The court heard how Baxendale’s family and friends have stood by him throughout court proceedings, with his partner and mother of his new-born baby also believing his innocence.

Placing a community order on the dad of one, Judge Gioserano said: “You described to the author of your pre-sentence report that this material as being disgusting and immoral – well unfortunately by virtue of the judgement of the jury the same adjectives can be applied to you.

“I focus not on your lack of remorse or courage not to admit these offences, but the other things that can be said for you.

“There is your previous good character and the time it has taken to get here. Through no fault of your own it took a long time to bring you to trial.

“You have now become a father and I have to take that into consideration. I must consider what affect you going into custody would be on your partner and child.

“In my judgment there is enough mitigation here to justify in the place of a relatively short custodial sentence, the imposition of a community penalty and that is what I will do.

“It may well be that had you been convicted and sentenced much earlier than you are, this sentence would have been a very different one.”

Baxendale of Newfield Drive, Blackburn, must comply to a community order for two years. Its requirements include him complying with a sex offender’s treatment programme, 10 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 150 hours of unpaid work.

He must also sign the sex offender’s register for five years.