A SEX offender made contact with what he thought was a teenage boy online, quickly turning the chat round to sexual matters, a court heard.

But, unknown to Leslie Booth, he was communicating with a police officer, posing as 14-year-old ‘Dan’.

Durham Crown Court was told the defendant was made subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and registration as a sex offender, for exposing himself to a boy in 2010.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said Booth breached the terms of those orders by contacting the same boy via social media several years later, and by failing to notify police of the address he was staying, in 2016 and 2017, resulting in him receiving a new Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), which, by then, had replaced the old SOPO.

But, earlier this year he began communicating with what he believed was a 14-year-old boy, via two social media apps, moving from one to the other at his suggestion.

Booth soon began making sexualised suggestions, sending the boy an image of his private parts and asking him to reciprocate, while also envisaging performing sexual activity with the boy.

Mr Dodds said: “What is clear is that he knew the alleged ‘victim’s’ age and, yet, there he was having the type of communication with this supposed young lad, knowing full well he was only a child.”

At one stage Booth asked ‘Dan’ if he was really a young boy, and, “not a police officer there to catch paedo rings.”

Mr Dodds said Booth breached his court orders by use of a mobile phone to communicate with a young boy and refusing to give police the PIN access code to the internet, preventing inspection of his online activities.

The 61-year-old defendant, of Central Drive, Spennymoor, admitted attempting to incite a boy to engage in sexual activity, attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, plus three breaches of a SHPO.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said: “He’s clearly a man with personal difficulties. This would be his first custodial sentence and he’s concerned about his ability to cope in that environment.

“His current offending came about as an act of personal desperation. He’s an isolated and lonely gentleman who fell to temptation to engage in offending that has comforted him in the past.”

Judge James Adkin told Booth: “You engaged in sexualised contact with what you thought was a boy, suggesting sexual activity.

“Then, there’s the breaches, which are, themsleves, more serious offences.”

Imposing a 28-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin made Booth subject to a SHPO and registration as a sex offender both for ten years.

He also ordered forfeiture of his devices connecting to the internet to enable police to further try to gain access to reveal the contents.