A TEENAGER who thought he was talking to an 11-year-old girl online was in fact exchanging sexual messages with paedophile hunters.

Callum Craig was just 18 when he sent sordid pictures and videos to who he believed to be a young girl named Madison through Facebook – soon finding out he had been communicating with paedophile hunters who had set the page up in a bid to snare online predators.

The exchanged came to an end when members of the group confronted Craig at his family home, where he made full admissions to his behaviour.

Burnley Crown Court heard how the now 20-year-old struggled with learning difficulties and was mentally much younger than his years.

Prosecuting the case Charles Brown explained: “The three counts for which this defendant falls to be sentenced for all relate to communication over social media with a paedophile hunting group.

“One operative ran a decoy by the name of Madison, an 11-year-old girl. They placed a profile pretending to be a child on social media and then waited for communication from others trying to befriend her.

“The defendant contacted the decoy through two social media profiles not in his own name. The decoy’s name was communicated to him.”

For several days Craig communicated with the child in a non-sexual nature, it was heard, before things took a turn.

Mr Brown said: “He tried video calling her and during that he sent her a picture of himself masturbating. Conversation between them continued and he asked for photos, to talk dirty, to see her gentiles and sent her photos.

“On the final occasion he asked her to touch herself and to tell her about it. He wanted her to borrow her mother’s phone so she could video and he could watch.”

The group arranged a confrontation on August 26 and they went to his home, where Craig admitted he had been in communication with ‘the children’.

The police were informed and the defendant was arrested, where he made no reply to questions which were asked.

Defending his client, Phil Holden said: “He was 18 at the time and properly described by a doctor as functioning at a level below his chronological age – that is a feature taken up in the pre-sentence report.

“Because of his chronological age and the age he was functioning at, that ought to allow the court to give a significant reduction in sentence and look at the guidelines for youth offending.”

He added: “The level of sentence that we are looking at, in my submission, is one that could be suspended given the circumstances.

“The author of the pre-sentence report is inviting the court to consider a community order instead of a term immediate custody. This would mean the probation service could have oversight of the defendant for a period of up to 3 years. In my submission this has its own advantages.”

The court heard how Craig of Manchester Road, Burnley, has no previous convictions.

Judge Sara Dodd Imposed a community order for 3 years for attempting sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause a child to watch sexual activity and attempting to get a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.

Judge Dodd said: “These are very serious offences however I do have to bear in mind that they are no completed offences, but you did not know that.

“I bear in mind your learning disabilities and all I have heard about you.

“If you entered into custody you would be there for a short time. I am persuaded by the reports that yours is a wholly exceptional case. I have a duty to protect people and locking you up for the period of time that I can, I don’t believe would do that.

“For that reason, I am imposing a three-year community order. In my judgement an order of that length is needed to ensure the work you require is carried out. You will have to attend a sex offenders programme and complete rehabilitation requirement days.”

Craig must also attend a sex offender's programme and complete 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.