A PAEDOPHILE burst into tears in the dock after being caught in a "predator hunter" sting chatting to someone he believed to be a 12-year-old girl.

Anthony Worrall, from St Helens, was actually talking to an adult using a fake social media profile in a bid to root out online child sex offenders.

The 52-year-old went as far as arranging a meet-up with the "girl" to take her shopping and buy her pizza, but the meet-up never happened.

He was later arrested and charged with attempted sexual communications with a child and possessing indecent images of children, as well as three counts of making indecent images of children.

The dad-of-two appeared to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, sat in the dock with his head down for the most part, on some occasions with his head in his hands.

The court heard from prosecutor Steven Ball how the ‘child’ in question was a girl named Casey, but it was in fact a decoy profile.

This was being operated by a member of a group called Yorkshire Predator Hunters UK who believed they were talking to a man named Tony Jackson, from St Helens.

However, the defendant was identifiable from his profile picture, all the photos he sent to the hunter showed his face and the phone number used was linked to him.

First contact was made on a social media platform called Meet24 in October 2022, before "regular and sustained" messages were sent between November 9 and 20 that year.

The child told Worrall she was aged 12 and from Stafford, while he told her he was aged 51 and lived near Liverpool.

After learning her age, the defendant said: “I think I’m a bit too old for you … unless you like older men?”

During the chats, he sent four images clearly showing his face, all bare chested, one of him stood in boxer shorts with an erection and another of him just wearing a towel.

She sent a photo after is was solicited by Worrall, who complimented her as "really nice", and when she mentioned her 13-year-old friend, he asked for a photo of her and suggested she may want to join their chats.

The defendant also said she had a "really nice body and boobs for her age", called her "very cute" and asked if she was wearing any underwear.

Chat moved to arranging a meet-up in Liverpool on November 20, where Worrall would meet her outside Primark or the museum to take her shopping and for pizza.

The defendant cancelled however, but rearranged for the next day. This was their last chat however, with no further contact and no-one attending the meet-up.

He was arrested at his home address in St Helens on February 9 last year and his Samsung phone was seized and sent for a forensic examination.

This revealed the presence of indecent images of children. A tablet computer was also seized, however officers could not access its contents.

In total, 12 depraved photos and videos of children being sexually abused were recovered from the phone, of which four were graded as category A – the most severe grading – while one was category B and seven were category C.

One of the category A files was a video of a young girl aged between three and five being raped.

St Helens Star: Worrall was sentenced at Liverpool Crown CourtWorrall was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

The disgusting videos and photos were sent to him on request in an online chat, to which he replied: “Wow, so hot.”

Following his arrest, Worrall was asked if he wanted a solicitor, but he said: “Dunno, I’m going guilty anyway.”

Despite this, he answered no comment to questions put to him during his police interview in the presence of a legal representative, and only pleaded guilty at a later court appearance.

Moreover, he denied an unhealthy interest in children in a pre-sentence report, was vague about the motivation behind his offending and said he did not need help.

Mr Ball revealed to the court that Worrall’s only previous is two motoring convictions from 2016.

Defending his client, Charles Lander highlighted how he has "moved away" from his position and now "accepts that he does have a worrying interest in children".

He said that Worrall never intended to meet up with the child and committed the offences while at a "low ebb" due to the loss of a close relative.

He urged the court to suspend the inevitable prison sentence to allow the probation service to work with him "on his demons" to ensure such offending does not happen again.

Before sentencing, judge Katherine Pierpoint said: “You started to make contact with someone you believed to be a 12-year-old child.

“In fact, she was not a child. Behind that persona was someone from a group taking down those online who show a sexual interest in children.

“The conversations you had were for sexual gratification. If you did not have a sexual interest in children, you would have desisted, but you did not.”

Addressing the indecent images, Judge Pierpoint commented: “It is important to remember what these images are – the rape and sexual abuse of children.

“If people like you were not interested in having the images, that abuse of children would not take place.

“The type of images possessed by people like you are disgusting and mean children are being abused directly.

“I am sure and hope you are deeply ashamed and embarrassed about what you have put your family through.”

Despite this, she judged the defendant to be a ‘realistic prospect for rehabilitation’ in the community to reduce his risk of reoffending.

Worrall, of Bramcote Avenue in Blackbrook, was sentenced to 19 months in prison suspended for two years.

He must also complete the Horizon sex offender treatment programme, 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 180 hours of unpaid work.

In addition, he must sign the sex offender register for the next 10 years, while an application to impose a sexual harm prevention order will be considered at a hearing on Friday.

The court also approved orders to deprive the defendant of his phone and tablet computer.