A MAN who performed a sex act in front of a 14-year-old girl he met on the Internet was spared jail yesterday.

Andrew John George, 34, offered the teenager, from the Barnard Castle area of County Durham, £100 to spend the night with him and "fulfil his fantasies", a court was told.

George met the girl in an Internet chatroom for teenage girls in April, logging on under the name Sexy Yorker.

He asked her for sex in the private messages, telling her he was younger than he was. When she refused, telling him she was only 14, he said he liked young girls.

George then asked the girl to use a webcam link and he then got undressed and performed a sex act in front of the webcam.

The court heard that a few days later, the teenager told her mother about the incident and when they logged back on to the website, another message was received from George, this time offering the girl £500 for sex.

George was arrested after police identified him from his e-mail address.

Paul Dharmi, in mitigation, told South Durham magistrates, sitting at Newton Aycliffe, that George lived with his parents in a small village and that his job, working nights in a garage, prevented him from meeting people.

He said: "He is not in a position to socialise and does not really have a circle of friends. The Internet has become a lifeline to him.

"He has no desire to go back on to a computer during the course of his lifetime."

Mr Dharmi said George, of All Saints Drive, Shiptonthorpe, East Yorkshire, was seeking psychiatric help.

Magistrates' chairwoman Jean Johnson said custody had been considered.

She said: "The fact that makes it more serious are that your age and the victim's age are so disparate."

She said magistrates took into account the fact that he lived in relative social isolation and sentenced him to six months in custody, suspended for two years.

George, who admitted offering a girl under 16 money for sex and engaging in a sexual activity in front of a minor, was also ordered to undergo three months' supervision.

He was also placed on the sex offenders' register for seven years.