A teenager who downloaded more than 16,000 indecent images of children from the internet was spared custody because of his age.
Thomas Pearce, 18, admitted possessing the pictures after police executed a search warrant at his address in Woodvale Avenue, Doddington Park, Lincoln.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Pearce began offending when he was just 14 and was only 17 years old when police carried out the raid.
The images included children as young as one year old and pictures of naked girls aged five or six, the court was told.
Phil Howes, prosecuting, said the images were found on a computer notebook and tower used by Pearce.
Mr Howes said the “lion’s share” were in the lowest criminal range. But 146 pictures were in the highest level of five.
“He accessed the internet and saved these images to return to later for his own sexual gratification,” Mr Howes added.
“In interview he gave a frank account. He knew what he was after, and knew what he was getting.”
The court heard Pearce was now studying for a computer science degree at the University of Sussex.
Nigel Byrne, mitigating, said: “He does not fit the usual profile in age for these type of offences.
“In internet terms the numbers while not small, were not as large as they could be.
“The offending probably started when he was 14 and lasted until the age of 17 when he was arrested.”
Pearce admitted five charges of making indecent images, possessing 16,442 indecent images, possessing 363 prohibited images and possessing four extreme pornographic images.
The offences occurred between April 2009 and February 2011.
He was sentenced to nine months youth custody suspended for 12 months, ordered to complete an internet sex offenders’ course and 100 hours of unpaid work in the community, and told to register as a sex offender for five years.
Passing sentence Judge Sean Morris told Pearce he had “anguished” over his case.
Judge Morris said: “You were in possession of a considerable number of illegal images of children that you downloaded from the internet.”
But Judge Morris added: “What I am required to take into account in law is the age you were when you committed these offences.”