A WINCHESTER man who sent indecent images to hundreds of children, including a 10-year-old girl, was caught after a mother took matters into her own hands.

John Pepper, of Ringlet Way, Winnall, set up an Instagram account where he sentindecent pictures, that he had downloaded from the internet, to users.

One of those users was a 10-year-old girl, who he sent two images to and invited her to meet, Winchester Crown Court was told on Wednesday.

Rob Welling, prosecuting, said: “She told him she was a schoolgirl, that she was 10, she had a boyfriend, and that she didn’t want any pictures from him.”

The child passed the image onto a friend which came to the attention of their school and the friend’s mother.

“She (the friend’s mother) created a profile for herself and contacted the defendant. She in effect was trying to smoke him out,” Mr Welling continued.

The mother eventually got Pepper to send an image of himself, this was shown to police, and he was arrested on January 24, 2019.

“The defendant was very forthcoming in relation to what he was doing, that he got sexual gratification from sending pictures to children," Mr Welling added.

The court was told that the 25-year-old had sent images to around 300 people, including children, for four months before he was arrested.

He was charged with engaging in sexual communication with a child and four counts of making indecent photographs of a child relating to nine images. He previously pleaded guilty.

Following his arrest, Pepper said: “I’ll admit what I did, I do bad things on Instagram,” and told officers that he had a “sex problem”.

In mitigation, Jodie Mittell, said that Pepper was referred to child and adolescent mental health services at the age of six and remained under them until 16, during that time he was diagnosed with autism and ADHD.

She told Judge Jane Miller QC that her client was “bullied throughout school and found it difficult to form relationships”. The court heard that Pepper is "socially isolated".

Since the proceedings in the case started it has “exacerbated the anxiety that he already suffers” and has been getting help for the disorder.

In a victim impact statement, the mother of the 10-year-old girl, said that the crime has impacted her whole family, not just her daughter, who is now concerned that Pepper will recognise her and find out where she lives.

Judge Miller sentenced Pepper to 12-months in prison suspended for two years, he must also complete 60 rehabilitation days and 100 hours unpaid work.

He will subject to a sexual harm prevention order and notification requirements for 10 years.