A Huddersfield man was caught by paedophile hunters after he travelled to Barnsley station intending to meet up with a 14-year-old girl.
Gavin Bedford, who had previously been cautioned for having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19, was detained at the station after a fictitious online profile was set up by the Parents Against Paedophiles group.
The profile posted on a social media site indicated that the female was 18, but after Bedford made contact with the “girl” he was told that she was only 14 and asked if he still wanted to speak to her.
Prosecutor Michael Smith told Bradford Crown Court that Bedford said he didn’t mind about her age and the online chat between them became sexual.
“The defendant discussed meeting with her and talked about kissing and cuddling her,” said Mr Smith.
“The defendant spoke about having sex with her and the chat became progressively more sexual in nature.”
Mr Smith said Bedford, of Whitestone Lane, Fartown , asked for pictures of her in her underwear and encouraged her to perform a sexual act.
The 26-year-old told the “girl” he had recently split up from his wife and suggested she could move in with him when she was 16.
Mr Smith said they arranged to meet in Barnsley on December 1 last year, but when he arrived Bedford was detained and then arrested by the police.
When he was interviewed by police Bedford claimed that the “girl” never told him she was 14 and said he believed she was 19.
In January Bedford pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming and the court heard that he had already spent the nearly four months in prison on remand.
Mr Smith noted that in a pre-sentence report Bedford had laid the blame for the offending on the “girl” who he suggested had essentially “pestered him for sex”.
But Mr Smith said the chat messages indicated that Bedford had been “the driving force” not the fictitious complainant.
Bedford’s barrister Anastasis Tasou submitted that his client had suffered psychiatric issues since childhood and he described the defendant as socially awkward and isolated.
He said Bedford had been searching online for females over 18, but the defendant conceded that he had carried on with the chats after he was told the “girl” was 14.
The Recorder of Bradford Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said such cases always put the court in a difficult position because they resulted in attempts where the actual harm could never properly be assessed.
“If you were actually caught indulging in a meeting with a view to penetrative activity with a person you would be going to prison for a very long time,” the judge told Bedford.
The judge said Bedford’s 15-month jail term could be suspended for two years adding: “You’ve had your taste of custody and the probation service recognise you can and will respond to structured intervention.
“That seems to me to be the right course. Having identified you as a potential, real paedophile I should give the probation service the opportunity to work with you.”
Bedford will have to comply with a programme addressing sexual offending as part of a rehabilitation activity requirement and he will also have to do 150 hours unpaid work for the community.
He will also have to register as a sex offender with the police for the next 10 years and be monitored under a sexual harm prevention order for the same period of time.