A SEX offender dodged jail after being stung by paedophile hunters while trying to prey on someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

Steven Young, 30, admitted sending indecent messages to the decoy – who was actually an adult woman – from his home address in Drongan between July 14 and July 28, 2021.

At Ayr Sheriff Court last week Sheriff Christian Marney told Young he could have been sent to prison for the “very serious offence” – but decided that he was satisfied there were enough measures in place to protect the public without having to send Young to jail.

The court had previously heard that the target of Young’s messages had actually been an adult woman, a member of a Facebook group, who was masquerading as a 13-year-old on an adult dating site.

Fiscal depute Alexander Fraser told a hearing in January that Young contacted the decoy’s profile on July 14, 2021, using a profile that said he was aged 28 and from Ayr.

That hearing was told that in one message Young told the decoy ‘I bet you would like to try sex’, and that in another he said ‘I will lift you up, carry you to my bedroom, put you in my bed and do it to you’.

After screenshots of the whole conversation were taken, members of the group went to Young’s home to confront him before police were called.

“The conversation moved to WhatsApp after the decoy gave the accused the telephone number to contact her,” Mr Fraser added.

“The accused, then aged 28, asked the age of the decoy. The decoy told him she was 13.

“The accused asked if they could meet up. The accused also asked if she wanted a cuddle.

“He went on to ask if she would stay at his house. He also asked if she was happy to have him as her boyfriend.

“He then went on to ask if he gave her a lift would she feel his leg. He then went on to ask if she would snog him.

“He then said to the decoy ‘I bet you would like to try sex’.

“Thereafter he stated in his living room

“He then went on to say he was playing with himself. He then asked the decoy ‘will you be making noises when I’m s***ing you’.”

“Screenshots were taken of the conversation. Members of the online group attended his address to confront the accused. Thereafter police were contacted.

“At a later date the accused was traced and arrested.”

Sheriff Shirley Foran placed Young on the sex offenders register, and deferred sentence until a later date for background reports and a full risk assessment.

Defence solicitor John Gallagher said: “Without putting the cart before the horse, two matters jump out me in the report.

“On the one hand, it discusses further deferral for a psychiatric assessment. However, what’s also clear is he has a number of difficulties with cognitive abilities. A psychiatric report isn’t going to give much more information.

“He is accompanied by his family, his father has been involved in the report process. This whole process has opened doors to support agencies assessing Mr Young and he’s moving forward.

“I recognise this is a serious offence but Given his age, the lack of previous convictions and the fact there are no matters outstanding I’m able to submit that the matter can be dealt with by a community based disposal as an alternative to custody.”

Sheriff Marney told Young: “This is a serious offence. Would it not be for certain circumstances in your case I would be contemplating a custodial sentence, but having regard to your age, no previous convictions, no matters outstanding and the report outlining your cognitive difficulties, I’m satisfied justice can be done and the public protected.”

He was placed under supervision for three years as part of a community payback order, with a conduct requirement restricting his internet access.

He will also be on the sex offenders register for a three-year period.