A FORMER pub landlord caught with nearly 4,000 indecent images on his computer has escaped a jail sentence.

Robert David Williams, 37, from Pilmawr Road, Caerleon - a former licensee at the Hereford Arms in Maindee - had made 3,945 of the indecent images.

Newport magistrates yesterday criticised police for not categorising the pictures properly - leaving them unsure how depraved some of the images were.

Michael Cordy, the chairman of the bench said: "It is difficult to arrive at a just decision when the level of seriousness of 3,928 of the images has not been properly classified.

"The court finds itself in a position of having to find those images as of the least serious nature, whether they were or not."

He acknowledged the Crown Prosecution Service tried unsuccessfully to obtain the information from police.

Mr Cordy added: "We trust the court's dissatisfaction with this situation will be brought to the attention of the police to avoid this sort of situation occurring again."

But after the hearing, superintendent Ray Wise of Gwent Police said criticism from magistrates had no basis as all the images in question were categorised and given to the CPS and defence.

He said: "In addition to this, Gwent Police also offered to show the court all additional images at the hearing, an offer which was declined."

Williams pleaded guilty to 17 counts of making indecent pseudo-photographs of a child on dates between August and September in 2003.

A further three offences involving 3,928 images were taken into account.

Paul Moore, prosecuting, said on 27 September, 2003, police executed a search warrant at the Hereford Arms on Hereford Street and seized a quantity of computers and associated equipment.

He said seven of the images were classified as Level One on a scale of one to five, with five being the most serious.

Ten of the images were classified as Level Two.

Williams was sentenced to 80 hours community service and a two-year community rehabilitation order.

He was also ordered to attend the community sex offenders programme and sign on the sex offenders register for five years.

The chairman of the bench said the court of appeal advised that the seriousness of the images involved in the case did not justify a custodial sentence. He ordered the destruction of the computers and other equipment seized by police.

Martyn Prower, defending, said the case was hanging over the defendant for 14 months.

He said the images were at the lowest end of the scale in terms of their indecency.

Following the verdict, the current landlord of the Hereford Arms, who declined to give his name, said: "As soon as I knew what was going on I banned him and I haven't seen him for months."