The "librarian" of a child porn archive accused of amassing nearly 250,000 images pleaded guilty Monday to sending indecent images of children to subscribers in more than 30 countries.
The judge at Teesside Crown Court in Middlesbrough ordered Philip Thompson, 27, of Stockton-on-Tees in northeastern England, to serve at least three years, nine months in prison.
He pleaded guilty to 16 counts that include making indecent photographs of children, distributing indecent photographs of children, taking indecent photographs of children, possessing child abuse images and causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Officials say he controlled the archive from two computers in his mother's house. Police classified more than 3,000 of the images as showing the most serious forms of child sex abuse.
Police have identified 360 people worldwide suspected of involvement in the ring; 50 have been arrested in Britain.
"Thompson was a critical piece of this network," said Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Braithwaite of Cleveland Police. "He was, essentially, the librarian for a myriad of images that were distributed to like-minded individuals both in this country and elsewhere."
Lawyer Brian Russell said Thompson had cooperated with police since his arrest in February.
"This is really a young man who has fallen into that stereotype of a rather sad and lonely teenager who spends too much time in a darkened room in front of a computer screen," Russell said. "He has not had much life experience to get himself mature."
Judge Michael Taylor gave him an indeterminate prison sentence, saying he must prove he is not a risk to society before he can be released.
He told Thompson he was "somebody who is prepared to go to extreme lengths to feed your lust. You are a very dangerous individual indeed."