A MAN who thought he was exchanging highly sexualised messages with girls aged 12 and 13 had, in reality, fallen for four decoy profiles posted by paedophile hunters.

Fake social media accounts were set up in different names using false profile pictures of other girls, by the vigilante group Angels of Innocence, in June and early July, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that Shaun Congdon, then 21, contacted all four and, soon got the conversation round to intimate matters, asking the girls to perform sex acts on themselves, and sending them images of his own private parts.

He gave one a contact number and told her he was in love with her and he wanted her to be his girlfriend.

Richard Bennett said Congdon, from South Yorkshire, told her he was going to visit a friend in Newcastle, and invited her to, “join him in bed, for sex”.

A meeting was arranged outside a store in Seaham, on July 5, but when Congdon turned up, police, who had been tipped off, were present and arrested him.

He was twice interviewed following arrest and gave no response to police questions.

Appearing at a recent plea hearing, the defendant, now 22, of Cheviot Drive, Doncaster, admitted three counts of attempting to incite a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and one of attempting to have sexual communication with a child.

Christine Egerton, for Congdon, said he has no previous convictions and accepts he needs help to address his behaviour.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Congdon he was, “prolifically active”, “positively encouraging” the supposed girls to perform sex acts on themselves.

He said the only conclusion he could draw was that he wanted to meet all four thinking they were pre or young teenage girls.

Judge Carroll told Congdon he, “richly deserves” an immediate prison sentence, but he imposed a nine-month jail term suspended for two years, due to his lack of previous offences.

He ordered him to undergo 35 days on a sex offenders’ rehabilitation programme and 20 probation-supervised rehabilitation activity days, as well as abide by a six-month electronically monitored 7pm to 7am home curfew.

Congdon will also be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and sex offender registration, both for 15 years.