A MAN who 'brought out a knife' when he was confronted by paedophile hunters at his Poole home was this week spared a prison sentence.

Andrew Walker, 35, believed he was chatting to a 12-year-old girl called Ellie on social media over the course of two months last year. However, he was in fact speaking to a member of vigilante group Confronted and Caught.

During the course of the conversation with ‘Ellie’, Walker said he’d had a previous sexual relationship with a child, the court heard. Children’s underwear was found at his home, although no complainant has been identified.

Last October, members of the group went to his property in Knowlton Road. After a row, which was live-streamed online, Walker called police. He later admitted attempting to cause or incite a child aged under 13 to engage in sexual activity. On Friday, Walker appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentence.

Rob Welling, prosecuting, said Walker, who is now homeless, made a series of explicit requests to ‘Ellie’. He also said he would drive to Chester to visit her and encouraged her to perform a sex act upon herself.

During the confrontation with members of the vigilante group, Walker armed himself with a knife before calling police, it was heard.

“The most concerning feature of this is his suggestion to ‘Ellie’ that he’d had sex with a female of a similar age to her,” Mr Welling said. “Police did find a child’s underwear in his home. His explanation for this beggars belief.”

Roderick Blaine, mitigating, said the defendant was engaging in “fantasy, not reality”, proof of which was the offer to drive to Chester.

“He does not have a driving licence. He does not have a car. He told ‘her’ Chester was 200 miles away and it would take him two hours to get there,” Mr Blaine said. “He was in a fantasy world.”

Judge Robert Pawson said he believed it was in the interests of the public for Walker, who is now homeless, to be rehabilitated.

Sentencing the defendant to a three-year community order with a 300 hours of unpaid work, a rehabilitation activity requirement, a ten-year sexual harm prevention order and an order to attend a sex offender programme, Judge Robert Pawson said: “Most important for public safety is your rehabilitation.”