A former scout leader has been jailed for secretly filming young boys in his care as they undressed in changing rooms.

Nicholas Sherwood, aged 56, of Mill Road, Bradworthy, had been a scout leader for more than 20 years but betrayed the trust of the boys and their parents by installing a hidden camera to spy on them.

He claimed it was to stop bullying by the boys who were aged six to eight but police found a hoard of thousands of child abuse images on his computer that he had also downloaded from the internet.

Sherwood had already been removed from his post after parents and fellow leaders expressed concerns but had kept eight films which he recorded in changing rooms which were found at his home in North Devon.

One of the films showed his face at the start of the footage as he installed the secret camera and checked it was aimed at the area where they boys were about to start changing.

Police also recovered the spy camera in a cupboard, Exeter Crown Court.

Sherwood admitted voyeurism and  four counts of downloading or possessing child abuse images and was jailed for 22 months by Judge Neil Davey, QC.

He ordered him to sign on the sex offenders’ register and made a sexual harm prevention order which restricts his future contact with children and allows the police to monitor his internet activities. He will be banned from working with children by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

The judge told him: “You have no previous convictions, but that conceals your long-term sexual interest in young boys and has manifested itself in many ways.

“For nearly 30 years you worked with cubs or scouts and you shamefully took advantage of the opportunity not only to spy on young boys when they were changing but to film and record it for your sexual gratification.

“You did so with carefully prepared and placed hidden cameras but this was not discovered until police became aware in 2019 of your sinister use of the internet.

“The boys were recorded in a place where they were entitled to believe was private and you violated that privacy. This sentence must be immediate because of the scale of the offending and the gross breach of the trust of the children and their parents.”

Miss Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said Sherwood was identified because he accessed sadistic images of child abuse on the internet and was found with 2,728 images including 187 in the worst category.

Some showed boys aged as young as three suffering abuse that amounted to rape. Police searching his home found the videos of boys changing, the secret camera, and a child mannequin.

Sherwood had been a scout, or cub leader between 1988 and 2015 and a Beaver Scouts leader between 1996 and 2015. The films were date stamped from June 2008 to August 2010.

Mr Nick Lewin, defending, said Sherwood was struggling to resolve issues arising out of his own abusive childhood. He had devoted his life to the scouting movement and would probably have received recognition for his work but for this case.

A request has been made to the Scouts for comment.