A sexual predator in Wales who was caught out asking a 13-year-old girl for sex by a member of the public who ran his own sting operation has been spared prison.
Bernard Merrells, 52, sent explicit messages including nude pictures and video, to what he believed was a young girl, Swansea Crown Court heard.
In reality he was speaking to Dylan Timby, who had created a fake profile on the dating website Waplog, posing as an under age female, named Roxy Jones.
Mr Timby reported Merrells to the police and he was arrested.
Sentencing him today, Judge Peter Heywood said if he sent Merrells, who he described as “lonely and depressed” to prison for his actions which “beggared belief”, he would not receive the treatment he needed.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, said Merrells made it clear “he was looking for a girlfriend” when he started speaking to Roxy.
He said: “He mentioned he would be a good boyfriend.”
Mr Jones said the pair exchanged phone numbers and used What’s App to exchange photographs, which included nude images that Merrells claimed were of him and a video purporting to show him masturbating.
He added that Merrells asked the person to whom he was speaking to meet him in a hotel and told her not to tell her parents about their chats.
Mr Jones said: “The conversation was of an explicit nature between the two individuals.”
Merrells, of Bryn Road, Clydach, Swansea, South Wales, admitted one count of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity at an earlier hearing.
David Singh, defending Merrells, said he was now reluctant to use the internet and was remorseful for what he had done.
After hearing about the exchange of images and videos, Judge Heywood said modern technology had something to answer for.
“Things were much more simple in my youth,” he said.
“We see so much of this day in, day out. I know it (technology) has its advantages but this is the flip side of the coin.”
He said Merrells “richly deserved” to go to prison but added that there he would come into contact with more sophisticated sex offenders.
He said: “You pose a risk to young girls of committing offences of this nature and it needs addressing.
“It would not be addressed by a custodial sentence because there is a huge waiting list … I would have to sentence you to four years (and that’s) not a course that’s open to me.”
Merrells was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity requirement for up to 40 days.
He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order and told to sign the sex offenders register, both for a period of 10 years.
Judge Heywood said he would monitor the progress of the order with reviews.