An advertising executive who admitted downloading 264 images of children aged nine and 10 has avoided a jail term.
Carl Miller, 46, from Hemel Hempstead, was told by Recorder Patrick Fields at St Albans Crown Court he "richly deserved" a prison sentence.
But the recorder said society would be better served if Miller did a community order and rehabilitation programme.
The images were found in 2016 on a computer and USB sticks seized from Miller's previous home in Redbourn.
'This is real abuse'
Recorder Fields told Miller: "The images you downloaded involved the real abuse of real children.
"It haunts them for the rest of their lives. This is real abuse. You need to face up to that."
Miller was ordered to register as a sex offender and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for five years.
He was handed a three-year community order and a 60-day rehabilitation course.
Bruno Haine, mitigating, said Miller was of previous good character.
"He had been drinking and has not drunk since. It is something he wants to put behind him. He is very remorseful." he said.
Miller was given two months to pay £425 prosecution costs.