An online predator from Daventry has been jailed after being trapped by a group of vigilantes.
Robert Hawes, 56, thought he was chatting to two girls aged ten and 11 when he met them online, but was talking to a group called The Hunted One.
The group, based in Kent, tipped off police after Hawes arranged to meet a ten-year-old girl and tracked him down to Woolacombe, Devon where he was staying with his son.
Police arrested him before he could be confronted by the vigilante group, whose evidence of the chat logs and recorded phone calls in which Hawes tried to arrange a meeting with a child, led him to admit what he had done.
Hawes, of Jubilee Road, Daventry, pleaded guilty to attempting to incite a child to sexual activity and attempting to meet a child after grooming.
He was jailed on June 5 for a total of 20 months by Recorder Mr Donald Tait at Exeter Crown Court and put on the sex offenders register and given a sexual harm prevention order, both for 10 years.
Recorder Tait said: “Your offending was aggravated by the persistent nature of it over a period from December 2016 to March this year.
“It is also aggravated by the fact you sent pictures of your private parts to a girl who you thought was ten with comments about where you wanted to put it.
“A prison sentence is inevitable to mark the seriousness of this type of offending. I accept by the time of the arranged meeting you had changed your mind and would not have gone through with it.
“Nevertheless you made persistent attempts to contact what you thought were young people and persisted in trying to meet one of them before you changed your mind.”
Jonathan Barnes, prosecuting, said Hawes met the ‘girls’ in internet chat rooms and sent them sexualised messages. The so-called ten-year-old was a creation of the vigilante group.
Hawes did not make the rendez-vous on April 7 and instead went with his son on a rugby tour to Barnstaple.
Emily Pitts, defending, said Hawes had no intention of going through with the meeting and there was no risk to any child, even if the girl had been real rather than fictitious.
On the day of the assignation he was 200 miles away from the supposed meeting point. She said he was grateful to the police for intervening before he was found by the vigilantes.
Miss Pitts said Hawes has been diagnosed with early stage dementia which he fears is deteriorating. He is keen to address his offending and has been deemed suitable for a probation run programme.