A chatroom predator blamed lockdown isolation after he was trapped by paedophile hunters who caught him sending explicit messages to a 14-year-old girl.

Kevin Jarratt used the Randochat app to contact what he believed was an underage girl called Bella but was in fact an adult posing as a child.

He sent two intimate pictures to the girl, asked for images in return, and sent further explicit messages.

He was trapped by a paedophile hunting group called SGTI which called in the Devon-based groups Totnes Justice and UK Database to confront him at his home in Ilfracombe.

He used the alias Beauty and the Darkness on Randochat and carried on sending sex messages to Bella even after she reminded him she was only 14.

Defence lawyer Legiea Girard blamed social isolation during the Covid lockdown for Jarratt’s behaviour, which started on March 28 and carried on until his arrest on June 20.

Jarratt, aged 58, of Cambridge Grove, Ilfracombe, admitted attempting to incite a child to sexual activity and was ordered to attend a 34-session sex offenders treatment course with ten days of rehabilitation activities.

He was put on the sex offenders register for five years and made subject of a ten-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court. The order bans contact with children and allows the police to monitor his internet activity.

The judge told him: “You suborned what you thought was an underage girl, and having sent pictures of yourself, you incited her to send you indecent pictures of herself.

“In the course of thousands of messages over three months, you broached more significant sexual activity. It seems you have a problem of a sexual interest in underage girls that you need to deal with.”

Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said the decoy was set up in the name of a 14-year-old called Bella and Jarratt made contact through Randochat before continuing the messages on Kik.

He started in March and sent a large number of messages which continued until he was confronted at his home in June.

Miss Girard, defending, said Jarratt’s relationship had broken up because of his arrest and at one point he had been held in custody because of hostility from his neighbours. He fears losing his job.

She said he has never been in trouble before and the offences concerned a decoy and not a real child.

She said: “He became engrossed in accessing adult material as a way of escaping stress. This was during lockdown, which was a notoriously challenging time for coping with loneliness and boredom.”