An Andover man caught by paedophile hunters has been given a suspended sentence on two charges today.

Jonathan Furber, of Salisbury Road, had previously pleaded guilty to two charges, attempting to incite a child to sexual activity and attempting to incite a child to watch a sexual act. He was arrested after paedophile hunters arranged a meeting at a pub where he was confronted.

The 31-year-old was given a 16-month sentence for the offences, suspended for two years.

Sentencing Furber on January 28, Judge Miller QC said that this was “a one and only” opportunity for him, but warned that any reoffences or breach of the sentence would see him returned to court.

Winchester Crown Court heard from prosecutor Roderick Blain, who said that in 2018, Furber began messaging with an account that he believed was used by a 14-year-old girl called Hannah. This account was actually being run by an adult female member of a “vigilante organisation”.

Despite telling Furber that the supposed user of the account was underage, he proceeded to send sexually explicit pictures. Conversation then moved to WhatsApp, where “extremely graphic and sexualised” messaging continued, including video of the defendant masturbating and suggestions ‘Hannah’ should do the same.

A meeting was then arranged at a pub, where the court heard that Furber “wanted to take her into the forest for sex”. Upon arrival, he was confronted by the paedophile hunter group “in numbers”, who livestreamed their citizens arrest on the internet. Police subsequently were called and arrested Furber.

Mitigating, Ruby Selva said that Furber had lost his job and his relationship, and had not been taking medication for ADHD. She said that he had been communicating with adult females, and this “spiralled”, leading to him being “humiliated” on the internet.

She said that there was “no suggestion” her client had been pursuing others, with no evidence of other messaging or sexually explicit images of children found on his phone or computer.

Furber had been “wholly co-operative” with the investigation and prosecution, she said, having pleaded guilty even after the Crown Prosecution Service informed the defence that the vigilante group was not responding to their attempts at contact, with the leader having been prosecuted.

Selva said that he had “expressed true remorse” for his actions, and had “strived to address his offending”, calling for a suspended sentence to be given.

The judge agreed with Selva, with the starting point of four years for the first charge halved as the offence in question could never have taken place, as the 14-year-old child did not exist. This was then reduced by a third due to his guilty plea, and then suspended for two years.

Sentencing Furber, Judge Miller said that he had demonstrated “considerable remorse” by pleading guilty despite the absence of evidence from the paedophile hunters, and said that was “a real chance of rehabilitation.”

“I am being lenient,” she said. “You’re not going to get another chance like this, it’s a one and only.”

She warned him against reoffending or breaching the terms of his sentence, adding: “This is a chance. Please don’t make me regret it.”

In addition to his suspended sentence, Furber was ordered to attend a sex offenders course and to attend 25 days of rehabilitation, as well as conduct 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also given a sexual harm prevention order and ordered to surrender his phone, which is to be destroyed.