A FORMER recruitment consultant who sexually abused a baby - then shared the images with fellow paedophiles - has been jailed for 18 years.

Thirty-three year-old Barry Hudson-Muscroft joined an online network, where he sought similar indecent material, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

But one of the people in the sordid group was a US deputy sheriff, who alerted the FBI, the court was told.

Police in the UK were immediately notified and Hudson-Muscroft, who had no previous criminal convictions, was arrested the next day.

Hudson-Muscroft, of Langley Avenue, Prestwich, had also been involved in sexual chats with girls online who he believed to be aged 12, 13 or 14.

And he had downloaded more than 4,000 indecent images over a four-year period before his arrest.

Hudson-Muscroft pleaded guilty to two offences of raping a child. He also admitted to three offences each of making indecent photos, possession of indecent photos and sexual touching.

He also pleaded guilty, on a separate indictment, to distributing an indecent photo, and three further offences of making indecent images. Hudson-Muscroft also confessed to four charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with girls aged under 16.

Jailing him, Judge Maurice-Greene said: "What these (offences) demonstrate is that you had a long-standing interest in the abuse of young children for your own sexual gratification."

The judge, who gave him an extended six-year licence, told him he had "plumbed the depths of depravity".

Alaric Bassano, prosecuting, said that US officials found that people with sexual interests in children were congregating in groups on the social platform Kik Messenger.

One of these was 'Share Bears No Limits', which Hudson-Muscroft joined with the user name 'Diablo1987', he added.

His web conversations with under-age girls came to light when his mobile device and computer was seized upon his arrest.

Mark Friend, defending, said his client led a "dual life", where on the one hand he was a hard-working man, but on the other he posted online, often while inebriated, demonstrating a completely different side to his personality.

Hudson-Muscroft was contrite and remorseful and had been candid with the authors of a pre-sentence report, even if he did make initial denials after his arrest, Mr Friend told the court.

He added: "The defendant accepts that there are very many serious issues with which he must deal."

Judge Greene also imposed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order, restricting Hudson-Muscroft from meeting under-16 year-olds and curbing his future online activities.

The judge also ordered him to sign the sex offenders register for life.