A paedophile from the Wirral has been jailed for seven years after being found with 3.5 million indecent images of children - the largest amount ever found in the UK.

Thomas Owen, 33, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court for possessing and distributing the images, and paying a family in the Philippines £863 for their seven-year-old son to be abused and filmed for his personal sexual gratification.

The court heard how he paid the family over seven months for pornographic images of the boy.

Detectives found Owen in a chat room where he was using the username Porkchop91 and discussing child porn with another paedophile. They were investigating a file sharing site called Gigatribe.

After he was arrested, police found millions of images and films of children protected by an encryption code.

The court heard how Owen admitted to being attracted to children wearing nappies and swimwear, but would collect anything he could get hold of.

As well as the 3.5 million pictures, there were thousands of films - too many to be categorised. He pleaded guilty to all 27 counts of inciting a child to commit indecent acts, making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children

Zilla Williams, defending, said Owen was "shocked" at how many images he had. She said he helped police crack passwords and codes of other paedophiles and that he had a difficult childhood - he plans to seek psychiatric help, she added.

Depraved exploitations

Owen had previously been jailed in the US for fondling an eight-year-old boy while he was working for Camp America as a volunteer.

Sentencing, Judge Brian Lewis said Owen was a "dangerous offender" and that his previous conviction shows he was willing to act on his perversion.

Speaking about the Filipino family, he said: "It is of course the case, repeatedly the case, that poor Filipino families are deliberately targeted by the sort of depraved exploitations you have embarked upon.

"In their desperation and their poverty they are effectively prostituting their children for people like you in the west and your salacious, perverted sexual appetites.

"This court in the course of its duties sadly has to deal with many cases like this involving the exploitation of children for sexual purposes but rarely I can say has one come across a case with such exceptional levels of criminality."

As well as his jail term, Owen was ordered to go on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.

Detective chief inspector Steve Fell from, Merseyside Police, said: "Thomas Owen had more than 3.5 million indecent images and videos of children on his computers - the most we, as a police force, have ever seen. Many thousands of them were the most serious child abuse imagery there can be.

"Every single one of those images represents the horrific, shameful and degrading sexual abuse suffered by real children at the hands of paedophiles.

"I am certain that all will have suffered greatly because of sexual predators like Thomas Owen and all will sadly become repeat victims each and every time their image is viewed online.

"A massive amount of work is done by law enforcement agencies throughout the world to identify paedophiles like Thomas Owen, infiltrate their networks and uncover the evidence we need to put them behind bars."