A Wirral vicar caught downloading images and vidoes of child sex abuse will be sentenced today at Liverpool Crown Court.

When Rev Ian Hughes faced the court yesterday, Judge David Aubrey, QC, adjourned sentence until today and remanded him in custody overnight.

The secret life of Rev Hughes was revealed during Merseyside Police investigations into internet users exchanging indecent images of children by peer-to-peer file sharing software.

His internet address was linked to a large quantity of such images between March 2 and March 27 last year and police armed with a search warrant raided his home at the vicarage in Brougham Road, Wallasey.

They seized his three computers and subsequent examination revealed more than 8,000 indecent images in all categories of seriousness, said Miss Jayne Morris, prosecuting.

When arrested he said: "It's a relief in a way, it is like an addiction."

When interviewed, he admitted looking at images of boys and said he had been attracted to teenage boys since he himself  was a teenager.

He said that since joining the church he had struggled with his sexuality.

Hughes pleaded guilty to 15 charges of making indecent images and movies, one of possessing 8,227 indecent images and one of possessing an extreme pornographic image.

Miss Morris said that 835 of the images, including 220 movies, were included in the two most serious categories.

46-year-old Hughes, who was Priest-in-Charge of St Paul’s in Seacombe and St Luke’s in Poulton, was suspended by the Bishop of Chester immediately after his arrest and yesterdayresigned.

Peter Killen, defending, said, "The concepts that brought him here today are deep-seated and complicated.

"It is clear the defendant's repression of sexuality has played a part in introducing him to the desperate and depraved world of parts of the internet."

He said it was also clear he "had taken to leading a desperate double life.

"On one hand, he was a successful parish priest carrying out all the duties expected of him to a very high standard and to the advantage of literally hundreds or thousands of people in Halton and then Wirral at Seacombe and Poulton.

"He worked on Merseyside ships, set up food banks and worked in disadvantaged communities."

Mr Killen said on the other hand, alone at night time Hughes committed the offences for which he has to be dealt with.

"His journey to that arena was his way of dealing with his own repressed sexuality and continued to live as a celibate gay man for very many years."

Mr Killen said that Hughes had come to court prepared for a jail sentence.

But he urged the judge to instead not send Hughes immediately to prison and, in the interests of societ, order him to attend a stringent sex rehabilitation programme.