A FORMER Ukip council candidate has been spared a term behind bars despite being caught with thousands of indecent images of children.

Marley John Spicer, of Bere Hill Crescent, was slapped with a three-year community order by Judge Andrew Barnett during a sentencing at Winchester Crown Court last Friday.

The 61-year-old, who unsuccessfully ran as a Ukip candidate in the last Test Valley Borough Council elections, was summoned before the court accused of possessing over 2,800 images across five electronic devices.

He was arrested in December 2015 for possessing the indecent images of children, the large majority of which were classified as category C.

Spicer was also charged with possessing 10 still category A images – the most serious grade – plus 29 class B images and one class A moving image, all of which were of girls aged between eight and 16.

Police found the images after a search of Spicer’s home, in which they seized two laptops and three mobile phones.

Officers later arrested Spicer at his workplace.

During questioning Spicer did not co-operate with the police investigation, answering “no comment”

to each of their questions.

He also refused to enter a plea for the charge of possessing 2,863 category C images, claiming there was a disparity in the figure.

However, despite the large quantity of images, Judge Barnett took pity on married Spicer, who he said had previously held a clean record and had shown “remorse” for his crimes.

Defending, Claire Wiggett claimed Spicer had returned to his Christian faith and wanted to make up for his offending.

Ms Wiggett said: “This is a man who takes full responsibility for his actions and a man who has come to court saying that he is willing to undergo therapy.

“There is an awareness by Mr Spicer that his offending has very widespread effects on the community and his wife, who may need to talk to someone herself about this.”

Judge Barnett accepted that the majority of Spicer’s images, accumulated between 2008 and 2015, were category C and said he would therefore sentence him along such guidelines.

He added that despite Spicer’s “disgusting habit”, it would be of “no benefit” to either him or the community to impose a prison sentence.

Sentencing Spicer to a threeyear community order and 60 days of rehabilitation therapy, Judge Barnett said: “I’m going to make you subject to a long community order because you say that you want to do something about this aberration.

“I’m going to put in that community order that you take part in rehabilitation activity which will include sex offender treatment.

“You be warned that if you do not comply with the probation and break it then you are likely to go to prison.

“Society will have their eye on you as this community order will last for three years.

“I hope that it will benefit you and society.”

Judge Barnett added that Spicer’s confiscated electronic devices would be destroyed and that he will have to sign the sex offenders register.