A pervert who attempted to groom teenage girls and told police he had made a “big mistake” when he was arrested has been jailed.

Despite being told of the girl's ages, Suleman Mahmood, 28, continued to send the girls, who he thought were aged 13 and 14, sexually explicit messages.

It transpired Mahmood was communicating with decoys from the Online Child Abuse Activist Group (OCAAG).

In order to prove Mahmood was the person sending the messages, members of the group visited his home in Dukes Brow, Blackburn, on the evening of September 20, 2019.

Police then arrested Mahmood who signed a statement at the scene which said: “I will be honest. I have made a big mistake.

"I had no intention to meet them. I just wanted to make friends. I knew they were underage.”

During police interview, Mahmood answered no comment to all questions put to him.

In an investigation of digital evidence, detectives managed to establish that Mahmood believed he was talking to children when he sent the highly sexualised messages, and had incited them to engage in sexual activity over eight days between September 2 and September 10, 2019.

Mahmood, of Dukes Brow, Blackburn, was due to stand trial in May of this year.

However, in April he pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause/incite a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity, and attempting to cause a child aged 13 to 15 to watch/look at an image of sexual activity.

Last week at Preston Crown Court, Judge Graham Knowles QC jailed Mahmood for five years and eight months.

He also ordered him to sign the sex offenders register for life and made him subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

DC Claire Scott, of East CID, said: “Mahmood is a sexual predator who attempted to groom and engage in sexual activity with underage girls.

“When he committed these offences, he genuinely believed – having been told by the decoys – that he was talking to real children.

"Despite knowing that he continued with his abhorrent behaviour.

“I am pleased with the sentence handed down to Mahmood and it reflects the danger that he presents to teenage girls.

"The associated court orders mean that Mahmood will be monitored by the authorities after he has been released from prison.

“We will continue to pursue and bring to justice, with the public’s help, those who seek to abuse youngsters for their own sexual gratification.

“I would like to thank OCAAG for their cooperation throughout this investigation.

“If anybody has concerns about an individual, I would always encourage them to contact the police in the first instance.

“We will thoroughly investigate those concerns and gather the evidence to put anybody who seeks to abuse children before the courts.”