A student has been spared jail after he was caught with a sickening collection of images of children as young as five being abused.
Police found 298 illegal pictures of shocking abuse and "sexualised cartoons" on Dylan McKenzie's iPad and computer, which were seized from the 20-year-old's home last October.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told Newcastle Crown Court: "The age of those depicted appear to be between ages of five to 11."
McKenzie, of Caer Urfa Close, South Shields, pleaded guilty to possessing prohibited images of children and three offences of making indecent images of children.
The court heard some of the images, which were all in still photograph form, were in the most serious categories of their type but most of them were of a lower level.
Judge Simon Batiste sentenced McKenzie to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements.
McKenzie must sign the sex offenders register and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for seven years.
Judge Batiste told him: "The children involved in those images are extremely young, aged between five to 11.
"While you, and other people, may have thought that this is a victimless crime, it is not.
"The abuse of children only takes place in many circumstances because there is a market, people wished and willing to look at such images.
"The viewing of those images is a direct cause of the abuse taking place."
The judge said McKenzie is of previous good character, has family support, is at university and has moved on from the problems he was having at the time of the illegal downloads.
Judge Batiste warned McKenzie that any breach of the sentence could lead to him going to jail.
The court heard McKenzie confessed to police he had been viewing pornography since the age of 16 and that it had "spiralled and become criminal" but that he wanted to stop.