A PERVERT who attempted to meet a teenage girl for sex has avoided being sent to prison.

Paul Woolston created two different online profiles for a dating website before targeting the 13-year-old, who was actually a decoy from a team of online paedophile hunters.

The 45-year-old called himself 'single, polite and friendly' and then later 'needf***y' when he contacted the teenager, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said it was made clear to Woolston from the outset that the girl he was talking to was aged just 13 using his first account.

The court heard how he then made contact with her using a different account and carried on regardless with the messaged quickly descending into ones of a 'highly sexual nature'.

He said: "He suggested meeting up at his flat and then he suggested to 'Layla' that she started to use WhatsApp – it is quite a usual thing in these circumstances."

Mr Abrahams said Woolston then contacted by someone else and arranged to meet up but was confronted by members of COST (Child Online Safety Team).

The group called the police and Woolston was arrested before officers checked his mobile phone but discovered no indecent images stored.

Woolston, of Cornwall Street, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to attempting sexual communication with a child on April 3 last year.

Stephen Constantine, in mitigation, urged the judge to pass a suspended sentence as Woolston was going through personal issues at the time of the offence.

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said: "I accept that it was a very stressful period of your life which was the traumatic breakdown of your marriage, which left you with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

"But that is no excuse to communicate with somebody who you thought was a child, in such a blatantly sexual manner.

"I don't accept that there was never any intention of physical contact. It seems to me that was what all of this was about but that was never going to happen because this was an exercise carried out by people who try to catch paedophiles on the internet."

Woolston was sentenced to a 30 month community order, 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and ordered him carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

He was also made subject of a five-year sexual harm prevention order and notification order.