A JUDGE has criticised police who took more than 18 months to summons a paedophile to court.

Jonathan Andrew Bell was caught with indecent images of children in April 2018.

But the 40-year-old, who admitted possessing the images in a police interview, was not sent a court summons by police until November 2019.

It sparked Judge Peter Henry to raise public safety concerns during the sentencing of Bell at Southampton Crown Court.

The judge told the court: “That’s wholly unacceptable.

“Police had no idea the danger you might pose to children and yet you seem to have been left in limbo for that time.”

Bell was arrested by police in November 2017 following a raid at his home, then in New Milton.

Officers seized a black iPhone and a computer tower unit from the property, finding an array of indecent images and videos in April 2018.

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Bell was also found to have had indecent images sent to him via a messaging application during conversations in which he discussed child abuse.

In mitigation, Christopher Gaiger said Bell was in a “dark place” at the time and had been abusing drink and drugs.

Mr Gaiger said Bell, who pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing indecent images of children, categories A to C, had not offended in the two years since his arrest.

In sentencing, Bell, now of Millbrook Road East, Judge Henry said he would have to take into account the length of time since the arrest.

He added: “I have read the pre-sentence report and it appears there is significant chance of rehabilitation in your case.

“I am prepared to suspended your sentence.”

Bell was given an eight month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to complete a sex offenders programme, complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and 170 hours of unpaid work.

Bell was also made the subject of a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and notification requirements, also for the same period of time.