A TEENAGER who was entrapped by ‘paedophile hunters’ has been told by a judge to build his life and enjoy a “bright future”.

Callum Lee Bates, from Andover, appeared at Winchester Crown Court on Thursday last week after pleading guilty to sexual grooming.

Bates was arrested on 2 January after he had arranged to meet a ‘nine-year-old boy called Dylan’ at Andover railway station, only to be confronted by self-styled ‘paedophile hunters’ called the SKID Group.

The court heard how Bates had engaged in conversation with the fictitious profile on the dating app Grinder.

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston told the court that in the messages the boy stated he was 14-years-old and was “sexually inexperienced”.

After further conversations Bates arranged to meet with ‘Dylan’ and the court heard on the arranged date the boy proceeded to tell Bates he was in fact only nine-years-old but Bates still wanted to see him.

Defending Bates, Lucy Conroy, told the court the 19-year-old had the “cognitive functioning of someone much younger” and was “clearly struggling with his own sexuality”.

Miss Conroy added there was a “youthful naivety” to the messages sent. She said: “When he was told that the age of the boy he was speaking to was 14-years-old, he replied by comparing it to Romeo and Juliet.”

Judge Keith Cutler, told the court the background of the case was difficult saying “it was right that he had been exposed” but adding “vigilante groups should not interfere in sentencing and plastering Mr Bates all over social media has been detrimental to his mental health.”

This comes after an outcry to stop so-called ‘paedophile hunters’ which have been seen to take little consideration for their actions.

In sentencing Judge Cutler CBE said it was clear Bates is a “highly vulnerable person” but added “you have much to give and there is a bright future and with the right help and guidance you can achieve this.”

Bates was given a three-year community order and must take part in 60 rehabilitation activity days. He was also placed on the sex offenders register for five years and a sexual harm prevention order was made for five years.