A GRANDFATHER who preyed on what he thought was a 14-year-old girl has escaped jail.

John Farrow from Horden appeared at Durham Crown Court via video link yesterday accused of attempting to incite a child into sexual activity and engaging in sexual communication with a child.

The 61-year-old made contact with paedophile hunters posing as a 14-year-old girl on June 7, of this year.

For the next six days he incited the Children’s Innocence Matters decoy to engage in sexual activity and spoke about having a child with her that he could sexually abuse.

Farrow also told the decoy to make sure she was not caught and said she would be okay as long as she did not tell anyone.

The court heard that he asked about the child’s brother and made reference to his genitalia.

Once evidence was compiled, a member of another vigilante group attended the sex offender’s address on June 13 and called the police who arrested the defendant and seized his phone.

The Conyers Crescent resident has no previous relevant convictions and kept out of trouble for the last 35 years.

He pleaded guilty to the two counts at court.

Sitting at Durham Crown Court Judge Ray Singh said: “You became involved in text messages with a young person who within a very short period of time you thought was 14 years of age. I accept that from the outset you may have been under the impression that she was over the age.

“You talked in depraved terms about having a child with her, a daughter and sexually abusing and inciting sexual abuse with that daughter.

“While it’s right that you did admit sending those messages and the discussion of a sexual nature you indicated it was not for your own sexual gratification – this is incorrect.

“I take into account that you have spent some time in custody and at your age with ill health and all the difficulties in prison that an immediate sentence is likely to have a hard impact on you.”

Farrow was handed a 16-month prison sentence suspended for two years for count one and given no separate penalty for count two.

He was ordered to take part in a treatment programme and will have to attend rehabilitation for 30 days.

The 61-year-old was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) banning him from having contact with children under 16.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Farrow’s attempts to groom a young girl show how easy it can be for a sexual predator to manipulate children online.

“The NSPCC want to see the Government and major tech companies do more through regulation and legislation to crack down on online grooming, protecting children and young people, and ensuring those who would use technology for such purposes face the justice they deserve.”

Children can contact Childline on 0800-1111.

Adults with concerns for a child’s wellbeing can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808- 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk