A SURGE in paedophiles downloading indecent images of children has led to police having to out-source its investigations to other firms just to keep up.

That was the warning from one court judge who sentenced a 60-year old for making hundreds of images of children as young as four years old yesterday.

During his sentencing remarks at Oxford Crown Court in the case of pervert Martin Kilgariff, Judge Peter Ross warned that some such cases were taking years just to make it to Oxford’s courts.

He said: “It is a sad fact that the number of these cases has reached such levels now that the analysis and interrogation of computer devices has had to be contracted out by police.

“And even so it takes a long while for these cases to come to trial or to court. Over a year in your case.”

Kilgariff, of Wilkins Road, Oxford, was jailed for 16 months suspended for two years at the hearing yesterday for three counts of making indecent images and one of possessing extreme pornography.

When approached by the Oxford Mail after the hearing Thames Valley Police could not confirm or deny the extent, if any, the police force out-sources its investigations to cope with an apparent backlog.

Instead, Detective Superintendent Nick John, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People, said in a statement that the force was committed to tackling all offences of making and possessing indecent images.

He said: “Keeping children and vulnerable people safe from harm is all of our responsibility, we rely on information from members of the public to identify crimes and keep victims safe.

“The public can be assured that we will always investigate such cases thoroughly and work with the Crown Prosecution Service to bring offenders to justice in court.”

While there are no independent figures used to record offences of indecent images the Office for National Statistics instead records 'sexual offences' in its yearly statistics.

Last month the Oxford Mail reported that recorded sexual offences had gone up this year by 15 per cent to 5,114 reports, while reports of offences of stalking and harassment had increased 76 per cent to 5,473.

The ONS said some cases of indecent images fall under the sexual offences classification.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail about the judge’s comments Donald Findlater, the Director of child sex abuse charity helpline ‘Stop it Now!’, said he was 'not at all surprised' at the out-sourcing of resources but added that procedures vary from force to force.

Speaking of the apparent surge in cases all across the country he said: "What has caused this is the availability of the material online.

"While we can simply blame the internet it is a massive temptation to a lot of people.

"For about three quarters who view what they would call child pornography, they will have probably a long-standing fascination with viewing legal material first."

He added that his organisation sees tens of thousands of users accessing its online services regularly and that about 45 per cent of contacts were from people concerned about their own behaviour.

In Oxfordshire they had received 28 calls to the helpline with concerns about viewing sexual images online of under-18s in the last year.

Nationally, the helpline receives up to 800 calls each month.

To tackle the problem locally, he said that a new campaign was set to be launched together with Thames Valley Police and Surrey Police in early 2019, in a bid to raise awareness about the issue and to help tackle offending.

He added that the charity - an arm of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation first founded in Oxfordshire in 1992 - is the only UK-wide charity dedicated to tackling child sexual abuse and works alongside Thames Valley Police and other police forces in tackling the problem.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid also recently announced more funding for the organisation and others like it to tackle the growing problem.

A Freedom of Information request has since been submitted to Thames Valley Police seeking further information on any out-sourcing.