A YOUNG man who swapped vile Facebook messages with a paedophile hunter he thought was a teenage girl has been spared jail.

Benjamin Jones was said to have “fallen into the laps” of the online vigilantes, exchanging sexualised texts with them.

Recorder Noel Casey sentenced the 22-year-old to a £250 fine and a three-year community order, giving him the time to complete probation courses aimed at changing his ways.

Prosecutor Colin Meeke told Swindon Crown Court Jones had been picked up last year.

“He fell into the laps of some of these paedophile hunters and started communicating with one of them online via various different media,” the barrister said.

“He exchanged messages with somebody he was told several times over was 13.

“They’re the usual repetitively lewd but rather depressing fill that we have come to expect in this material.

“I think he wasn’t very good at disguising himself and the police moved in and arrested him.”

Jones pleaded guilty to attempting to engage a child in sexual communication.

Grace Flynn, for Jones, praised the authors of a series of fulsome pre-sentence reports. She asked the judge to consider a fine as a way of punishing her client as a curfew would not prove any great hardship.

“There is clearly an element of social isolation already and he himself comments in the psychological report that it would not be much of a punishment because he doesn’t go out much anyway,” Ms Flynn said.

Her client received just £250 a month in Universal Credit and was supported by his grandparents.

Recorder Noel Casey sentenced Jones to a three month community order with a requirement to complete up to 10 rehabilitation sessions. He must pay a £250 fine at the rate of £50 a month.

The judge said: “You’ve pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity to the offence of attempting to engage a child in sexual communication in March of last year and therefore full credit applies to your case.

“The nature of the criminal communication was the sending of sexualised messages to somebody on Facebook you believed to be a 13-year-old female. But it was in fact using the phrase that is used in these cases a decoy and therefore you have been charged with attempted rather than actual engagement because the person you thought was a child was an adult female .”

Jones was made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order and must sign the sex offenders’ register.