A man who lives as a woman has been spared jail after admitting possessing indecent images of children, in a case described by a judge as “unique”.

Michaela Hammersley, 58, formerly known as Richard Michael Hammersley, had previously pleaded guilty to 16 charges relating to the images, after police found them in his Riddlesden home in September, 2008.

Prosecutor Giles Bridge told Bradford Crown Court yesterday that Hammersley had said in a police interview he felt the images were “beautiful” and did not accept they were indecent.

The court heard the images were the least serious.

Judge Jonathan Rose said it was a case on an “entirely different footing” to any other he had come across in his 30 years in criminal law.

The roots of Hammersley’s offending dated back to when he was a boy, he said, “who was uncomfortable with being a boy and more importantly with being in the company of boys, and that discomfort at male company, as I understand it, continued for the entirety of your life”.

He said Hammersley, who described himself as asexual, had “never been in my view someone whose attraction to femininity and children has had its root at all in matters of sexual behaviour”.

He said Hammersley was a highly-intelligent person and had a “deep, naive, childlike and innocent femininity”.

The judge condemned the possession of indecent photographs of children as “utterly deplorable” and said he was describing Hammersley’s circumstances to explain why he was not sending him to prison.

Hammersley, who used to live at Western Avenue, Riddlesden, but has since moved to Southport, was sentenced to a community order for three years with supervision and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

The judge said the order would provide Hammersley with support.