Benjamin Willis, 41, of St James’ Square, Cheltenham appeared at Gloucester Crown Court after he admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child aged 13 between September 1, 2017 and May 1, 2018.
In fact ‘Amy’, whom he was talking to online, was not a girl but an adult male paedophile hunter, the court heard.
Prosecutor Neil Treharne told Judge Michaal Cullum that Willis was using a dating app which has set a minimum age of 17.
“A conversation began between the defendant and ‘Amy’,” Mr Treharne said. “By the third message she said ‘I am 13’.
“The defendant said ‘Can I have a naughty picture and I will do the same?’
“He gave his name and address,” the prosecutor continued. “The conversation moved onto Whats App messaging.
“Many times she reiterated she was only 13. Numerous times.
“The communication became different. He would say ‘I love you. How has your day gone?’
“He would ask for videos and photos.
“’Can I have another sexy picture? I will do the same. Can I have a picture of you at the school, sexy?’”
Mr Treharne said that ‘Amy’ did not send any photos of a ‘sexual nature’ and all the images sent to the defendant were of a fully clothed girl.
In March 2018, the prosecutor said, Willis sent Amy a picture of his naked torso and then asked ‘Can you show me your t**s. Knickers on?’
Willis later sent a video clip of himself naked.
Mr Treharne said Amy had ‘not asked for any sexual images’.
In May the male controlling the Amy persona handed the devices he had used to communicate with Willis to police – leading to the defendant’s arrest.
Imposing a three-year community order with 40 rehabilitation activity sessions, Judge Cullum said: “Now aged 41, you have not been in trouble before.
“For a period of some months you had written communication with someone you thought was a 13-year-old girl in a sexual way, sending pictures of yourself
“There was no girl, it was a group trying to catch out men communicating with children.
“I am satisfied it started out seeking normal adult relationship
“When you were tricked into communicating with a 13-year-old, you should have stopped immediately
“But you did not. You made comments that you were interested in her sexually.
“That is serious. It is an offence, and one with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
“You are diagnosed as having autism and schizophrenia. You receive medication for that.
“You have a mental health history I do not repeat in open court,” the judge said.
“It is very important you do not do this again. This sort of thing really damages young girls.”
The judge told Willis the community order was “to assist you to not get into this situation”.
“To train you to spot what the problems might be, and how you might avoid them.
“That is really important for society and for you.”
Willis was barred from working with children last week. He was also made subject to the sex offender register for five years.