HGV driver Michael Billham, 52, believed he was chatting to an underage schoolgirl on an online teen chat site when he sent a series of sickeningly “vulgar” messages detailing explicit sex.
He planned to meet the fake youngster in Newcastle city centre not knowing he had really been messaging Dark Justice, a group who trawl the internet to expose paedophiles.
When he arrived to meet the youngster, who did not exist, he was confronted by members of the group who had alerted cops.
In footage shot by Dark justice the vigilantes ask Billham the age of the girl he is meeting. He tells them he is not meeting anyone.
Billham was confronted on camera when he turned up at the Centre for Life in Newcastle city centre on September 30 last year.
Gavin Doig, defending, said no real child was involved and Billham, who lives with his parents, has never been in trouble before and is willing to work with the authorities who can help him.
At Newcastle Crown Court Judge Sarah Mallett sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements, a sex offender programme, ten years on the sex offenders register and a five year sexual harm prevention order.
The judge said the sentence was the way of “best managing future risks”.
She told Billham: “There was an attempt to commit an impossible offence but, of course, the potential for harm does not need stated. ”
Prosecutor Mark Giuliani told the court Billham had sent a message to the site, which was for 13-19 year olds, saying “I would like to meet you” and stating his true age.
Mr Giuliani added: “The group responded with ‘I am 13’ and then there follows what can only be described as vulgar messages from the defendant to who he believed was a 13-year-old girl.”
Mr Giuliani said: “There was an intention for penetrative activity.”