AN EX-hospital worker caught hunting online for hundreds of pictures of abused children has claimed he believed the illegal material was fake.

Christopher Capel resigned from his admin job the day before walking into Oxford Crown Court to face Judge Ian Pringle QC for sentence.

The 34-year-old, who is still listed as a staff member on Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's website, walked from the court with a two-year community order.

Sitting at the court last Thursday, the judge said: "Anyone who thinks there is no victim in these crimes is totally deluding themselves.

"These are real children, real children put through real hell. The courts regard these offences as extremely serious.

"[I have read] that in your normal life you are a caring person. I'm going to give you this one chance to ensure that you never repeat this sort of offending in the future."

Police suspected Capel was downloading indecent images of youngsters after linking an IP address to his home, bursting into his Oxford home in Yarnells Road.

As officers hunted for the illegal material, the paedophile was heard proclaiming to his wife: "I have been arrested for accessing images and downloading images, it's bad stuff. I did not think it was real, I did not think it was that easy to find."

Prosecutor Julian Lynch told the court Capel was caught with 465 snaps of youngsters being exploited, along with two videos and two extreme pornographic images.

Defence barrister Lucy Ffrench said the paedophile was told he could be sacked for gross negligence at a meeting held the day before his court appearance.

There was 'no issue in relation to his work' and no disciplinary proceedings were due to take place, so he decided to resign from his medical secretary post within the oncology department, she said.

Mrs Ffrench, who claimed Capel would not reoffend, added: "His personal and work history has been spotless until now. He had been totally shocked by the trauma of this proceedings and has had his eyes completely opened to the gravity of what he has been involved in. He still presents as a man in shock. "

Judge Pringle told Capel to take part in a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement, as well as 180-hours unpaid work, and also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the computer equipment seized.

But he refused to order the sex offender, who was also handed a sexual harm prevention order, to pay any of the £1,200 costs sought by the prosecution as he had 'just lost his job'.

Capel, who must pay a victim surcharge, admitted making an indecent photograph of a child, possessing an extreme pornographic image, making a prohibited image of a child and possessing an indecent photograph of a child for show on April 28 last year.