A Lincoln man found himself caught in a paedophile hunters sting after sending explicit messages and pictures to what he believed to be teenage girls.
Patrick Malone, 34, set up a meeting with someone he believed to be the girl on WhatsApp, but when he turned up he was confronted by members of a paedophile hunter group.
The group called the police, who then detained Malone.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Malone had been contacting a string of what he believed were teenage girls sending them photographs of his private parts and porn videos during sexually explicit conversations over the internet.
Michael Cranmer-Brown, prosecuting, told the court that Malone had engaged in sexual conversations with girls he believed to be aged 12, 13 and 14.
He was caught in a sting by the Keeping Kids Safe group.
Malone’s downfall came in the spring of 2018 when he made contact with someone he believed to be called ‘Katie’ who told him she lived in Cardiff and had an aunt who she visited in Lincoln.
Mr Cranmer-Brown said: “The defendant is 34 years old and a family man. He told ‘Katie’ he was 20 years old. She told him she was 13.
“He gave her his phone number and asked for naked photos. He sent a naked picture of his penis to her.
“He said he would send her a video of sex and then sent her another video showing a female masturbating.
“‘Katie’ told him she was travelling to meet her aunt in Lincoln and he said he wanted to meet up with her telling her he would love to have sex with her.”
Mr Cranmer-Brown said: “They arranged to meet at Washingborough Church. Members of the Keeping Kids Safe group turned up at Washingborough at that time.
“Malone was apprehended by members of the group and a citizen’s arrest was made. Police were then called.”
Malone’s mobile phone was examined by police and they discovered further WhatsApp conversations he had been having with others he believed were young girls but were in reality members of paedophile hunting groups.
The court was told that the investigation revealed that Malone had made contact with a total of eight people he believed to be young girls.
Malone, 34, who formerly lived in Washingborough but is now of Pine Close, Ermine West, Lincoln, admitted a charge of attempting to make contact with a child after sexual grooming.
He also admitted seven charges of attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity, seven charges of attempting to cause or incite sexual exploitation of a child, six charges of attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity, and four charges of attempting to cause or incite a child to watch a sexual act.
He was jailed for two years and ten months and was placed on the sex offenders register for life. He was also given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.
Judge John Pini QC, passing sentence, told him: “Although, mercifully, there were no actual children involved you were trying over a period of three and a half months to contact people who you thought were young children. You told all of these pseudo children that you were 20.
“You were repeatedly and persistently engaging in highly sexualised conversations. There has to be an immediate custodial sentence.”
Sunil Khanna, in mitigation, told the court that he has lost everything as a result of what he did.
He said Malone started going onto dating sites and chat logs after his relationship with his partner began to break down and they drifted apart.
Mr Khanna said: “He is no longer in a relationship. He is no longer living with his partner and he no longer has a job.
“He is thoroughly ashamed and is embarrassed by his actions. He wants to get this out of the way and start his life again. He has lost absolutely everything.”