A CHILDREN'S welfare charity has hit out at the actions of a lighting firm boss who was caught with hundreds of child abuse images.

Bosses at the NSPCC say the actions of Joe Hale "help fuel the vile online trade" of indecent images of children.

It comes after the 32-year-old was given a suspended sentence after pleaded guilty to possessing hundreds of child abuse images on his mobile phone and laptop.

He was also caught with a video of himself performing a sex act upon a "child-like" sex doll.

Following his sentencing, at Southampton Crown Court, a spokesperson for the NSPCC said: "Children have been horrifically abused for these images to be created and Hale has helped fuel this vile online trade.

“The proliferation of online abuse images is a growing issue and this is why the NSPCC wants tech companies, government and law enforcement to continue to work together to cut this material off at its source."

Hale, who founded lighting and effects firm SFX Events, was caught with more than 400 indecent images, some of children as young as four, when police visited his home in Pennington in 2017.

Prosecutor Dawn Hyland added that police also found moving images of Hale performing a sex act on a “child-like” sex doll.

Ms Hyland added: “The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) say this shows that the defendant has acted upon his sexual interest in children.”

Mitigating for Hale, Damian Hayes said his client was “ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour”.

In sentencing Hale, who pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images and one count of making pseudo-images of children, Judge Gary Burrell QC said:

“The children you have been looking at are being abused.

“It is illegal and immoral.”

Judge Burrell sentenced Hale, of St Just Close, Ferndown, Dorset, to 15 months in prison, which he suspended for two years.

He also urged Hale to seek out treatment, ordered him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation activity requirement day, the subject of a five year sexual harm prevention order. Hale will also be subject to licence requirements for 10 years.

According to the SFX Events website, the company are one of the UK’s leading suppliers of special effects, lighting, AV and sound equipment.

On its website, the company lists hit TV show Top Gear among its clients, as well as sci-fi series Doctor Who and music festival Boardmasters.

According to Companies House, Hale is the director of SFX Events and SFX Productions – the latter of which claims to have worked with Saints FC.

Saints says it ceased work with Hale’s firm last year for “unrelated reasons”.