A NURSERY school teacher trainee from Highbridge, currently undergoing sex-change treatment, yesterday (Tuesday) escaped a prison term after being convicted of downloading indecent images of children.

Damien Walker, 20, was warned to expect jail following a trial earlier this year but after hearing reports from a psychiatrist and probation officer, a judge at Taunton Crown Court gave him a two-year community order with supervision.

He was ordered to sign the Sexual Offenders Register for five years and placed under an 11-point Sexual Offences Prevention Order with stringent conditions prohibiting him from contact with children.

The court heard Walker, who is over 6ft tall and heavily built with long hair, was having drug treatment before undergoing a £10,000 sex-change operation.

He appeared wearing black low-heeled shoes, a green skirt with a belted top and carrying a brown leather shoulder bag and is understood to have changed his name and now lives in Redditch, Worcestershire.

During his trial, a jury was told police raided his home following an American tip-off to find 485 illegal photographs of children - all but one of the least-serious category one - on his computer.

He was convicted on 20 charges of making decent photographs and one of having indecent photographs.

Walker denied a sexual interest in young children and described himself as a nepiophile - a person with an interest in looking at children.

He said he never intentionally stored illegal images and claimed it was hijacked by people out to get him because he was running a website supporting people with an interest in children.

Ben Tabiner, defending, said it had been difficult for Walker to come to terms with what had happened but he accepted being involved in that sub-culture was wrong and he needed help.

"He felt isolated from general society and found himself accepted into the sub culture he got involved with and became influenced by older members," he said.

Recorder Michael Selfe told Walker the Sexual Offenders Register included registering a change of name.

He said he had considered a prison sentence but it would have to be limited to six months maximum and could not contain any terms to help Walker or protect the public from any possible harm he could cause.