A MAN travelled more than 70 miles from Taunton to Bournemouth to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl, only to be caught by a paedophile hunter group.

Timothy John Charles Hobbs, 61, of Torquay, pleaded guilty to causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and arranging to meet a child, he committed both offences in September 2019.

He appeared at Winchester Crown Court for sentencing on September 3.

Prosecuting, Francisca da Costa told the court a man from a paedophile hunter group caught Hobbs when he arranged to meet the girl in Bournemouth, saying he’d be in a West Ham shirt.

When he arrived in the shirt, he was easily identifiable to the hunter group.

Ms da Costa said: “On September 4 [2019] the civilian set up an online profile on the app Oasis called Megan, the defendant used the profile Hannahs1234.

“[Hobbs] made contact saying ‘hello, my name is Tim’ and continued ‘how old are you, can I see your photo please?’

“The defendant said ‘you are so gorgeous’ and ‘you don’t look 14’.”

Hobbs asked for the girl’s number and began communicating with her on Whatsapp.

The court heard how the defendant said he’d “like to see her in a swimsuit” and on September 21, 2019, arranged to meet her in Bournemouth.

He was then caught by the hunter group and arrested by police.

Mitigating, Robin Leach said the defendant lived alone in Torquay without contact to his ex-wife and children.

He said he had worked as a driver for 40 years but had to stop due to physical reasons and was a “very solitary man”.

The Recorder of Salisbury, His Honour Judge Andrew Barnett, described the behaviour as “disgusting” and sentenced Hobbs to 12 months for arranging to meet a child and eight months for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

The sentences, which were to be served concurrently, were suspended for two years.

Judge Barnett said: “Both are serious offences, the second is regarded as more serious.

“You were not encouraging her to sleep with you or any other sexual offence other than maybe touching you.

“This is why the second count is more serious, you took yourself from Taunton to Bournemouth in an attempt to meet her, you stepped over the threshold, one can see why people are so concerned about people like you who take an unnatural, unpleasant and illegal interest in what you thought was a young person.”

Hobbs was given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order, meaning any device he owns capable of accessing the internet must be notified to the authorities and he is not “allowed to hide from the authorities”. He was also ordered to carry out 20 rehabilitation requirement days.

Judge Barnett added: “Society will be keeping an eye on you for the next two years.

“If you are stupid enough to commit any further offences you will be back and will go to prison.

“It seems to me it will do you good and benefit society in the long term to steer you away from this disgusting behaviour.

“I hope the court never sees you again.”