A PAEDOPHILE who shared disgusting child abuse images online with other sick perverts has avoided being sent to prison.

Joshua Stoll was discovered to have set up vile groups which chatted about the sexual exploitation of children, exchanging images of the ‘utmost depravity’.

The 25-year-old continues to deny he has a sexual interest in children, with the court hearing that he engaged with group members to gain a ‘sense of acceptance’.

But his ‘neurological divergence’ and his ‘previous good character’ satisfied a judge enough to suspend his term of imprisonment.

Stoll appeared for sentence at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday after admitting four counts of distributing indecent images of children (IIOC), four of making IIOC, one of possessing IIOC, one of possessing prohibited images of children and one of possessing extreme pornographic images involving animals.

Nick Cockrell, prosecuting, explained how the defendant was arrested on November 19, 2020, after police acting on intelligence executed a warrant at his home address.

Two Apple iPhones were seized along with a Hewlett-Packard laptop, and when the defendant was interviewed, he made admissions to officers about being in possession of and distributing IIOC.

He repeatedly denied having a sexual interest in children, but provided information to police in his passwords, usernames including JackBlack and NeoClover01, and his MegaMZ cloud storage account.

A forensic analysis found a total of 1,115 IIOC on all devices and the cloud account, including 207 photos and 49 videos graded as category A – the most serious category involving child rape.

The devices also had 246 photos and nine videos classed as category B and 640 photos and two videos classed as category C, along with two pseudo photographs.

It is believed that he amassed the sickening collection over a period of more than six years.

Officers also found 17 extreme pornographic images involving animals on his devices and 360 prohibited images of children, one of which was a video.

During the forensic examination, police also discovered chat logs from the defendant’s Wickr and Kik accounts, on which he distributed IIOC in groups he set up and was responsible for controlling and engaged in discussion with other group members about sexual abuse of children.

Over a period of 12 days, he distributed seven category A IIOC, one category B and 13 category C, along with two pseudo images.

“The category A images he was in possession of included videos of the upmost depravity, including children as young as six months being forced into penetrative sexual activity with adults,” Mr Cockrell said, adding: “These were images at the highest end of seriousness.”

Simeon Evans, defending, asked the court to give his client full credit for his guilty pleas at the first opportunity, also referencing his ‘previous good character’ with no previous convictions.

He spoke of how Stoll was ‘relentlessly bullied’ at school, leaving him effectively friendless because of the ‘neurologically divergent’ way he approached things.

Warrington Guardian: Joshua Stoll was sentenced at Liverpool Crown CourtJoshua Stoll was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

Despite this, he went through school and college after finding a skill in graphic design and enrolled in a degree course in university, but he dropped out after struggling to cope and following the death of a close family member, which ‘began a downward spiral’.

Stoll became a full-time carer for another close family member, and as a result became more isolated and ‘more and more dependant on the internet for almost all contact on the outside world’.

Mr Evans said that his client got a ‘sense of acceptance’ on the forum which he had never had in his life before.

Following his arrest, the defendant was later diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and engaged with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation – a charity dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse – to prevent future offending.

Before sentencing, judge Andrew Menary said: “You set up groups and in them you shared some of your library of images.

“The images you shared were described by police as truly shocking, involving sexual abuse of children as young as four being raped.”

He went on to say: “People who know you say they were truly shocked by the examination of your equipment.

“You are the type of man that spends a lot of time online in your own virtual world, and in that way you become involved in this troubling trade.

“Part of the reason you were distributing images was because in some way you wanted to be a fully participating member of the group.”

Despite his disorder, judge Menary said Stoll ‘should have known what he was doing was serious, wrong and a criminal offence’.

“You must have known these were images of real children being seriously abused. I do not accept for one minute you have no interest at all of a sexual nature.

“You have completed courses with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, but it is difficult to see how you can have benefited because of your continued lack of real insight into what you were doing.”

Due to Stoll’s lack of previous convictions, steps taken to address his behaviour, autistic spectrum disorder and significant role as a carer for a family, judge Menary said he could suspend the sentence.

He concluded: “You need to understand you have come very close to going immediately to prison.”

Stoll, of Lavender Gardens in Sankey Bridges, was sentenced to 20 months in prison suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to complete 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He must sign the sex offender register for 10 years and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.