A wife discovered a hidden laptop after police arrested her husband on suspicion of downloading child sex abuse images.
Officers raided Harvey Kirkland’s former address in Luton and seized three laptops and memory sticks.
A few days later, Kirkland’s wife found a laptop behind a cabinet when she was decorating. She handed it to the police, Luton crown court heard on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Hilary Neville said that 19,862 images were discovered. 3,330 at Category A, the most serious level. 2,743 were at Category B and 13,789 were at Category C. It included 614 videos at Category A.
Some of the images involved babies and very young children being abused.
53-year-old Kirkland was tracked down after officers monitored email accounts where child pornography and sexual fantasies about children were being discussed, said the prosecutor,
Kirkland, now of School Lane, Roxton, pleaded guilty to eight charges of possessing and downloading indecent images.
Tim Nutley, defending, said Kirkland’s wife had divorced him. He said he was no longer in contact with his extended family and had lost his job as a result of his arrest.
He said he was “very remorseful” and had been voluntarily attending sessions given by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity.
Judge Michael Kay QC jailed him for 16 months and said he must register as a sex offender for 10 years and abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
The judge told him: “The Category A images are of the most horrendous kind one can imagine. The physical and psychological damage caused to those children is difficult to imagine.
“Each person who accesses and downloads this material is contributing to the market. As there is a market, these evil people will continue to abuse children.”