A TEACHER working in a secondary school in the town secretly took pictures of pupils' legs and had downloaded more than 3,000 indecent images and videos of children on his laptop, a court heard.

Christopher Stretton, from Stockport, was caught when two students reported him to their head of year after spotting him taking pictures under their desk with a school iPad.

Another student asked the science and maths teacher, who was on a temporary contract, what he was doing but he told them to 'just get on with their own work'.

Warrington Crown Court heard on Thursday police found the 53-year-old had downloaded a collection of images over a 10-year period starting in December 2005, including children as young as one being abused, before he was arrested in June last year.

Paulinus Barnes, prosecuting, said: "Two girls were asked to move and it became obvious the defendant was looking at their legs.

"He took an iPad from his desk and put it on his knee tilting the camera towards their legs and then moving the device close to the floor.

"They checked the iPad later and found pictures showing their legs and thighs."

Stretton was immediately suspended and arrested with a search of his Stockton Heath home uncovering his laptop which contained, among others, a 27-minute video involving a child being abused while in handcuffs.

They also found he had used software to stop his IP address being traced by police so he could search for other images and videos.

Stretton initially denied he had taken the photographs and said the iPad had been left 'unattended' in the classroom a number of times.

He later told officers he had done it because he was 'bored' during a revision class and was alcohol dependent and depressed.

Andrew Downie, defending, read a statement from Stretton apologising 'unreservedly' for his behaviour and to everyone it 'hurt'.

He added Stretton had expressed 'genuine and sincere remorse' and had been seeking help since his arrest to tackle his alcohol problem as well as volunteering at a homeless charity.

Mr Downie added: "He was drinking double or triple the recommended amount after work but has been to self-help services not to excuse his behaviour but to try and understand it.

"This is not a man trying to hide from his responsibilities but instead doing his community service before it's ordered as part of his apology."

Stretton pleaded guilty to five counts of making and possessing indecent images of children and was jailed for 32 months.

Judge Tina Landale said: "You have abused your position of trust and your career is at an end as you're likely to be permanently barred from teaching."

The school cannot be named for legal reasons in order to protect the pupils' identity.