A KENDAL man confessed to more than 20 years of “depraved” sexual offences when he was arrested for abusing a little girl, a court has heard.

John Woodburn, 63, was detained after a woman told police he had committed sexual acts in front of her while watching pornographic films of children when she was just four years old.

He immediately admitted those offences and, in “surprisingly frank” interviews with the police, also admitted a string of others which included setting up hidden cameras so he could watch children in intimate situations, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Woodburn, who used to live in Esthwaite Avenue, Kendal, but has now moved to Aberdeen where he hopes to use his electronics skills to get a job in the oil industry, was jailed for 40 months after he pleaded guilty to 19 offences including gross indecency and making indecent images of children.

He was also put on the sex offenders register and banned from having unsupervised contact with children.

Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Dickinson told the court that Woodburn’s crimes came to light when his victim went to counselling for help with relationship problems which resulted from the way he abused her in the late 1980s.

“She had just met a new partner but realised that all her previous relationships had failed because of what had happened to her as a child,” he said.

Mr Dickinson said Woodburn used to show the girl child pornography – mostly of girls in school uniform – while naked from the waist down.

“She grew up thinking all men behaved like that,” he said.

When he was arrested for those offences, Mr Dickinson said, Woodburn immediately admitted many years of downloading child pornography onto two computers at his home.

He also admitted being attracted to the girl when she had grown up into her teens, and using his electronics know-how to hide a camera in her bedroom so he could watch her on his television.

He also described how he had fitted a similar camera in a family’s bathroom, and had made a 15-minute video looking up another little girl’s skirt by holding a camera under a picnic table as he had a meal with her family, Mr Dickinson said.

Woodburn pleaded guilty to two charges of gross indecency with the first girl and making an indecent movie of the second.

He also admitted 14 charges of downloading or possessing child pornography and two of possessing extreme pornography in the form of people in sexual activity with dogs.

He was not charged in relation to either of the hidden cameras, although Mr Dickinson said they formed a part of the prosecution case.

In mitigation defence counsel Kim Whittlestone said Woodburn – who claimed to have started using pornography when he became impotent because of diabetes – realised he had a problem and was keen to overcome it.

“He has had this hanging over his head for many many years,” she said. “He was expecting the police to come knocking on his door considerably sooner than they did.”

She said he realised the harm he had done to his victims and was “extremely distressed” about it.

“He has been extremely emotional – not for himself but for the damage he knows he has caused to others,” Ms Whittlestone said.

She said Woodburn was now separated from his wife, although she was in the court’s public gallery to support him.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Hughes QC told Woodburn: “Depravity – and it is depravity – of the sort you have engaged in is repulsive.

“What is also so significant about your case is the period of time that it covers – from 1987 onwards you have had a wholly unhealthy interest in pornography. In particular your outlet has been an obsessive interest in young girls.”