A pair of brothers who built a catalogue of 47,000 child sex abuse images over a period of five years have been caught by a police raid. 

Michael and William Lai, aged 61 and 67, collected vile pornography which showed children as young as nine being subjected to horrific abuse. 

The brothers appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday (August 4) after they each pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing indecent images of children. 

When National Crime Agency officers raided Michael’s home on Castlemaine Avenue, Croydon, in November 2019 he confessed that he’d been downloading indecent images. 

He also told officers that a computer tower and three hard drives in his home belonged to his brother William, prosecutor Alice Holloway said. 

Your Local Guardian: William (left) and Michael (right) had no previous convictionsWilliam (left) and Michael (right) had no previous convictions (Image: Newsquest/Bolton)

An inspection of the devices revealed that they contained indecent images of children dating back to January 2015. 

A total of 35,101 images were attributed to Michael, while 11,863 images were attributed to William. 

Judge Simon Medland KC told the brothers: “Neither of you fits the conventional image of a defendant in the crown court.

"You are both people who the outside world would view as nothing but respectable middle-aged men, but inside each of you had a dark secret.” 

He added: “You must understand that those are images of real children being abused, children who will have to live knowing that those images are out there for the rest of their lives.” 

Both men were given suspended prison sentences meaning they left the Old Bailey as free men. 

Judge Medland explained that the brothers had not been charged until March 2023 and that he was obliged to take that three-year delay into consideration when sentencing them. 

He said: “In coming to that decision I want nobody to think that this court doesn’t take this offence very seriously. It is disgusting and offensive and it must stop.  

“However, bearing in mind the delay to charging, your guilty plea and your good character prior to this offending, it is a decision I must make.”  

Judge Medland added that he could not understand why police took over three years to charge the Lai brothers after the raid. 

William, of Pheasant Field Drive in Derby, was given a 20-month prison sentence suspended for two years, while Michael was given a two-year prison sentence also suspended for two years. 

The brothers will both be on the sex offenders register for ten years and will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order. 

William was given a £1,500 fine while Michael was fined £2,500.