A PERVERT who sent a picture of his genitals to who he thought was a 13-year-old girl has narrowly avoided jail.

David Hayton started speaking to the 'teenager' on through a social media platform in August last year and their chat soon became highly sexualised.

However, Teesside Crown Court heard that the defendant was in fact talking to an undercover police officer as part of operation to target potential child sex offenders.

The 38-year-old also told the undercover officer that he wanted to take a shower with the teenage girl and that he was thinking about her when he was making love to his wife.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said the defendant knew from a very early stage that the girl he was talking to was underage but carried on sending sexually explicit messages and offered to buy her some red underwear.

In mitigation, Paul Green said his client was of previous good character and had been in work as a delivery driver until the nature of his arrest meant he was unable to secure shifts.

He said: “The author (of a pre-sentence report) does refer to genuine remorse, embarrassment and disgust in relation to his behaviour.”

Hayton, of Warwick Crescent, Billingham, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

He was given a nine-month sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 25 rehabilitation days to address his behaviour.

He will now be on the sex offenders' register as a result of his conviction and was given at ten-year sexual harm prevention order to monitor his online activities.

Sentencing Hayton, Judge Stephen Ashurst said: “You thought you were in conversation with a real child and not a police officer. It is clear that the motivation was sexual and for your own gratification.”