A paedophile who showed "unimaginable levels of depravity" sexually abused a toddler after he and his girlfriend planned to be alone with their victim.

Michael Colmer, 45, was branded a "truly despicable human being" after he was found with images of him abusing the child on two separate occasions, with the assistance of his partner Shannon Vicary, 24.

In disgusting WhatsApp messages, the couple from Newport discussed fantasies about what Colmer was going to do with the child while he sent pictures of his erect penis to Vicary.

Upon his arrest, Colmer was found with more than 600 indecent images of children, including images of his victim. He also told police he was sexually attracted to children.

The mother of the child, who both have lifelong anonymity, said her family's lives had been "devastated" as a result of the pair's actions.

Michael Colmer, 45, from Newport, fimed himself sexually abusing a toddler

A sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday heard Vicary contrived situations which enabled Colmer to be alone with his victim on two occasions, while her mother was unaware of what was going on.

As well as abusing the child, Colmer filmed himself carrying out sexual acts and took photos of the child.

Prosecutor Matthew Cobbe referred to WhatsApp messages between the defendants in which they discussed the abuse.

He said: "They would speak of their anticipation about what was to come. It began with a commentary on a photograph of children in school uniforms of a young age and that commentary became sexual.

"Colmer sent Vicary a picture of his penis and made references to what they were going to do the next day."

The conversation also included scenarios about how Colmer would sexually abuse his victim with Vicary assisting him.

The abuse was discovered after police attended Colmer and Vicary's home in Church Road on October 8 last year after they had been notified by the National Crime Agency that an email address located at the property had been accessing indecent images of children.

When asked where they would find the images, Colmer said: "You'll find them on my phone and on my iPad."

The couple were arrested and during his police interview, Colmer accepted making and distributing indecent images of children.

In total, police found 187 category A images, 144 category B images, 277 category C images and six extreme pornographic images. These children included children younger than 18 months old.

Mr Cobbe added: "(Colmer) accepted in his interview he had a problem and admitted being sexually attracted to children.

"When asked if he had actually assaulted any children he replied 'No comment' and when asked if he was a threat to children he said 'I can't say I am not'."

Police discovered images of the victim and steps were taken to identify her and notify her parents.

In a victim personal statement read out to the court, the victim's mother said her daughter had to go through a distressing medical examination as a result.

She said: "What has happened has significantly affected me.

"I feel like a bad parent because because I did not know what was going on and could not protect my daughter.

"I do not understand why these persons did what they did to my daughter. I hope they are never in a position to do this to anyone else . This has devastated me and my family."

Colmer later pleaded guilty to assault by penetration, sexual assault, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, taking indecent images, making indecent images and possessing extreme pornographic images.

Vicary pleaded guilty to two counts of arranging a child sex offence.

Nigel Fryer, who represented Colmer said there was little mitigation that could be offered other than his client's guilty pleas.

He said: "The reality of his situation is he understands any right minded individual would consider what he has done is abhorrent and he apologises for his behaviour."

Julia Cox, who represented Vicary, asked for her sentencing to be adjourned for a psychiatric report, which was granted by the court.

Sentencing Colmer, Judge David Wynn Morgan said: "This case reveals behaviour by both you and Vicary of an almost unimaginable level of depravity.

"You Colmer have revealed yourself to be a truly despicable human being.

"No one can assess the level of damage done to your victim but the level of harm inflicted on her mother is enormous..

"You pose a considerable risk of danger to young children."

Colmer was sentenced to a sentence of 11 years and four months imprisonment with an extended licensing period of six years, bringing the total sentence to 17 years and four months imprisonment.

He will serve at least two thirds of the custodial sentence before he is considered for parole. He was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

Vicary's sentence was adjourned to May 28 at Cardiff Crown Court.

Following the hearing OIC DC Chloe Collins of Gwent Police said: "I welcome the sentence given today. This was a complex and very sensitive investigation due the nature of the offending and I am grateful for the work of our Cybercrime Unit.

"I hope that the result today goes some way to offer some comfort to the child involved and her family. They have shown such resilience in what has been an extremely difficult and upsetting time for them."