A STEROID user who shared "vile" child abuse images with like-minded paedophiles has narrowly avoided prison.

Burnley Crown Court heard father-of-one Shahid Aslam was found with hundreds of indecent images and some videos, the worst of which showed abused children in distress.

The 34-year-old science and medical genetics graduate made a number of online searches on the theme of "pre-teens", the court heard.

Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said officers from the online sexual abuse team had gone to Aslam's family home in Nelson last May after receiving information that file sharing of indecent images had been taking place from an IP address linked to that property.

Officers spoke to Aslam's sister, mother and father who had no idea the illegal activity had been going on. But Aslam's father said his son occasionally went to the property to use the internet.

When police went to Aslam's house in Colne Road he was arrested and police seized a white iPhone, a black iPhone and a red HP laptop.

Ms Worsley said when the laptop was examined officers found 152 category A - the most serious examples featuring still and moving images of child abuse - 52 category B and 174 category C. On the white phone they found 171 category A images, 92 category B and 529 category C, while there were four category C on the black phone.

Among the items found was an image of a four-year-old girl being raped and a video of a girl between six and eight being raped by an adult. Ms Worsley said in the video the child displayed "discernible distress."

Further analysis of the devices found that Aslam's email address was linked to two accounts on the instant messenger application Kik.

On that application he had been communicating with a number of sex offenders and even shared indecent images with them.

Aslam, now of Ledgard Wharf, Mirfield, pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images of children and two of distributing indecent images of children.

Defending, David Temkin said his client had struggled with steroid abuse and loneliness at the time of his offending and was now estranged from his family and no longer welcome in his local mosque.

Judge Sara Dodd said there was no doubt Aslam's offending crossed the custody threshold but stated that because there was a realistic chance of rehabilitation the public would be better served if he received support within the community. She also said she sympathised with the officers who had to view the "vile" images.

Aslam was given a 30-month community order with a sex offenders treatment programme and ordered to complete 15 rehabilitation days. He must also sign the sex offenders register for five years and was made subject of a five-year sexual harm prevention order.