A PAEDOPHILE tried to meet a "13-year-old girl" and sent lewd mobile phone sex messages.

Sean Stillwell made contact with “Mia” on an internet chat room, after developing a sexual interest in young teenage girls.

But the 32-year-old was in fact falling into the trap of Sussex Police investigators, who used tactics similar to paedophile hunter groups to catch out men looking for illegal sex with children.

At Hove Crown Court, he was sentenced for admitting to attempt to engage in sexual communication with a child in West Sussex.

The court was told he also possessed sick images of girls as young as eight on “inaccessible” areas of his computer.

He also accessed 101 images of “extreme” pornography, depicting scenes of sex with live animals.

But he was spared a prison sentence because probation officers believe he can be kept in check with a community order and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to change his behaviour.

Edmund Blackman, prosecuting, said Stillwell had gone online as Sean32 on the chat room and contacted a profile with the username Mia13UK in September 2017.

He had asked her how old she was and she told him she was 13, he then asked her where he could meet her without getting caught.

In mobile phone messages he asked the girl about her school uniform and asked her to send sexual pictures of herself.

Mr Blackman said: “Mia was in fact a police officer, looking to detect offenders such as the defendant.”

Police then launched an investigation into father-of-one Stillwell, and found scores of category A, B, and C images of children on his computer, as well as the extreme pornography.

Josie Sonnessa, defending, said Stillwell has learning difficulties but had admitted the charges at the first opportunity before magistrates last month.

She said: “He accepts responsibility, and he is someone who would benefit from further intervention.

“He is relatively isolated and lives with his mother. While the case undoubtedly crosses the custody threshold, perhaps society can be best served if he was to complete a programme and get the treatment he needs.”

Judge Christine Henson QC, said: “Normally you would be getting a prison sentence that would start today.

“Although you are a high risk, particularly to young girls, a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and the work the probation service can do will be effective.

“The best opportunity of rehabilitation and you not behaving in this way is an order that allows you to work with professional expertise.

“They would help you understand why you behaved in this way and what you can do differently going forward.”

She ordered Stillwell, of no fixed address in Littlehampton, to complete 140 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,443 costs.

He must complete 34 sessions for sex offenders and 20 rehabilitation sessions. The SHPO will run for five years.