A PENSIONER who attempted to meet what he thought was a teenage boy for sex has been spared jail.

Douglas Hutchings, 75, of High Street Maldon, admitted going to meet what he believed to be a teenage boy at Maldon Promenade, after starting up conversation via dating app Grindr in June 2017.

However, he claimed he was only trying to warn the boy of the dangers of online dating sites and wanted to prevent him from falling into abuse later on.

However, the 15-year-old boy was actually a fake profile set up by an investigative journalist, who sent the sexual messages between Hutchings and the profile to the police, who then arrested him when he attempted to meet the boy in Promenade Park.

During the two-day trial in June, Hutchings gave evidence on how he himself had been abused when he was younger, and denied wanting to have any sexual relations.

However, the jury unanimously found Hutchings guilty within two hours’ deliberations.

At Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday, Karl Voltz, mitigating for Hutchings, told Judge Karen Walden-Smith that he had lost his job, his friends and was facing homelessness since the conviction.

He said: “This was a man who has completely thrown away an entire life of good character; he has acted on impulse to go down a path which he knew better than to pursue.

“Since his divorce a few years ago he has been looking for companionship and friendship, as he was extremely lonely.

“He has now had friends turn their backs on him, he has lost his job, and his landlord has given him two weeks’ notice to leave his home.

“Whilst the public will rightly be repulsed by his actions, he fears he would not mentally survive going to prison, the best course for himself and the public is for him to receive counselling and the right rehabilitation so that he will present no threat to the wider population.”

Judge Walden-Smith told Hutchings: “During your trial you gave very moving evidence of your experiences when you were a young boy, which was highly believable in that it dictated your behavior. But what you did was a serious offence, an attempted act, but it was very muddled and misguided. It is plainly a serious offence.”

Hutchings received a 12 month prison sentence suspended for a year, and will subject of a sexual harm and prevention order for ten years, being on the sex offenders register for the same amount of time.

He has also been barred from working with children, and must carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.