A man who went online to seek the sexual services of an 18-year-old woman was not put off when told the female involved was only aged 15, a court heard.

Joseph Smith, who called himself ‘Craig’, responded to an advertisement on a buy-and-sell website and rang the number twice, before texting to ask when she was ‘working’, on April 25 this year.

Durham Crown Court heard that when he eventually spoke to a person by phone he was told the female offering sexual services was not 18, but 15.

Alec Burns, prosecuting, said Smith asked if there were any girls available aged more than 16 as it was illegal under that age.

Despite being told that there were not, he was undeterred and went ahead with an arrangement to meet the 15-year-old for sex in an area of Framwellgate Moor, Durham.

Mr Burns said when Smith arrived at the rendezvous point he was arrested by police, who had posted the erroneous advert on the website in a bid to snare child sex offenders.

Smith claimed he, "wouldn't have done anything", stating that he had no interest in children at the time.

Found to be in possession of £980 cash, he claimed it was not to pay for the advertised sexual services, but the money was for his Man Utd season ticket renewal and when interviewed he made no reply to police questions.

The court heard he has previous convictions for voyeurism, dating from 2005.

He was said to have looked under cubicles at a swimming baths, while on another occasion he peered in windows while women were undressing.

Accused of attempting to arrange or facilitate a child sex offence, arising from the April offending, the 37-year-old defendant, of Brackenfield Road, Framwellgate Moor, admitted the charge at a plea hearing on May 24.

Read more: Man, 20, jailed over sexual meeting with girl in County Durham

Addressing Thursday's sentencing hearing in the case, Ian West, for Smith, asked for full credit for his client's prompt guilty plea.

He said the tactic employed by the police, posting an advertisement of an 18-year-old offering sex, but, then saying she was only 15 after receiving interest, could be viewed as approaching “entrapment”, but he added that he was not putting that up in the defendant’s defence.

Mr West said Smith has ADHD plus learning difficulties and is a man with his own, “problems and limitations,” but lacks, “a moral compass.”

Recorder Jamie Hill said despite being told the female supposedly involved was only aged 15, “it didn’t take you long to take up that offer and make yourself available to meet that girl so sexual intercourse could take place.”

The recorder said had the girl existed it would have been a case of a 37-year-old man “exploiting” a 15-year-old, “vulnerable” by her age.

Imposing a two-year prison sentence, he made Smith subject of restrictions by way of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, while he must also register as a sex offender, both for the next ten years.

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