INTERNET pervert John Rudd is tonight starting a 12-month prison sentence after he was caught by an online vigilante group.

Dark Justice snared the 57-year-old by posing as an underage girl on a dating website and then laid a trap at the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead in late November.

The pair filmed the encounter and then handed a damning dossier of digital evidence to police and he was arrested and charged.

Rudd, from Appleton Road, Stockton, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming at Newcastle Crown Court where he was sentenced today.

The court heard he believed he was talking to a 14-year-old called Donna.

Gavin Doig, prosecuting, said Rudd talked about sharing a bath, asked intimate questions about her body, asked for pictures, suggested she did not wear underwear when they met and discouraged her from mentioning their conversations to her mother and friends.

Paul Caulfield, mitigating, said Rudd was of previous good character but his life was now in tatters.

He said: "He bitterly regrets becoming involved in the way in which he did."

Rudd had recently been bereaved, was drinking heavily, and was "flattered" by the content of the messages.

Mr Caulfield said his client had suffered greatly as a consequence of the national publicity the case had gathered, and he has lost his job and had to move house.

He said: “He has no intention of using the internet having seen how this particular activity of entrapment has led him into wrong-doing."

The Northern Echo:

DIALOGUE: A screen grab of a text conversation between Rudd and what he thought was a 14-year-old girl called Donna.

Judge Penny Moreland said Rudd's messaging was "a textbook example of sexual grooming".

She told him: "You were attentive, flattering, kind and thoughtful and, meanwhile, you turned the conversation, when you could, to sexual matters.

"I accept no child was actually harmed by what you did, but your behaviour was persistent and you believed yourself to be engaging in contact with a girl of 14."

Rudd will be put on the sex offenders' register and the subject of a sexual offences prevention order for ten years.

After the hearing Callum, from Dark Justice, said: “It just shows that what we do works.

"They said his life has been destroyed but he would have destroyed a little girl's life.

“He won’t get anywhere near any children now.”