A FORMER Camp America guide, who sent a sexually explicit picture of himself to who he believed was an 11-year-old girl, has been spared jail.

Internet pervert Peter Mazza, 31, told her: "I wish you had some pictures to send back like mine I sent you. I hope you like it."

Burnley Crown Court was told how Mazza was caught as the sexual comments he had made in online chat over nine days were not in fact being received by a girl, but an undercover police officer posing as an 11-year-old.

Mazza, of Helmsdale Road, Nelson, had earlier admitted attempting to incite a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, between October 29 and November 13, 2012. He had no previous convictions.

The defendant received 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with two years' supervision and the Internet Sex Offenders' Treatment Programme.

He was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for 10 years and was given a five -year Sexual Offences Prevention Order, to limit his access to the internet and allow police to monitor it. Mazza is also banned from having or seeking contact with any child under 16 and must not allow children into his home.

Huw Edwards, prosecuting, said the defendant was asking what he believed was an 11-year-old whether she wanted sexual contact with him and whether she had ever had a boyfriend and talked about how it would feel for the first time.

Mr Edwards said police went to the defendant's home in January 2013 and seized two laptops and a mobile phone. They also found documentation about attendance on a number of summers at Camp America in the US, acting as a guide. Mazza was interviewed by officers and made no comment.

Hugh McKee, for Mazza, said he did not pretend to be a teenager. He was trying to begin relationships with adult females. Mr McKee said the case had caused Mazza many problems, in particular stress.

Judge Beverley Lunt said there were no sentencing guidelines to assist her for such offences, where there was no victim, no damage was caused and there was no actual meeting set up. She added: "Frankly, it's a sentencing nightmare."

She said Mazza's behaviour had been very disturbing and demonstrated an 'unhealthy sexual interest in young children'.