A MAN who met and groomed a 15-year-old boy has been ordered to participate in a sexual offending programme.

Bolton Crown Court heard how, in October 2016, a boy Craig Smyth had met through the dating app Grindr, spent the night in the spare room at his home.

Judge Timothy Stead heard how 37-year-old Smyth has previously met the boy at McDonald's and the boy had turned up for the encounter in his school uniform.

Andrew Mackintosh, prosecuting, said that nothing physically sexual occurred but afterwards Smyth and the boy remained in contact over the internet and they discussed having sex.

The contact came to the attention of police and Smyth, of Elgin Street, Halliwell, was arrested.

He pleaded guilty to inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and grooming.

Simeon Evans, defending, stressed that Smyth has not offended since, is now in a settled relationship with a girlfriend and they are expecting a baby.

He added that the offences occurred "at a particular strange, chaotic period of his life" which has not been repeated.

"Much of what was going on was essentially fantasy," said Mr Evans.

"He would say things in the course of these messages which he would never carry through.

"The thrill was in passing the messages."

He stressed that when Smyth had the opportunity to commit a more serious offence, he did not do so.

Mr Evans appealed to Judge Stead not to jail Smyth.

Sentencing Smyth to a community order for three years, Judge Stead said: "What he has done requires careful analysis. The facts of this case are unusual of their type."

He added that the offending had occurred at a time in Smyth's life when he was at "a low ebb" and he took to using an internet site for contacting others.

At the time he did not know the person he was talking to was a 15-year-old boy .

"When there was an actual meeting, at that stage he not only saw the complainant but must have seen he was wearing a school uniform," said Judge Stead.

"No sexual activity took place between the accused and the 15-year-old boy on that or any other occasion."

As part of his sentence Smyth was ordered to go on a sex offender programme and participate in 30 days of rehabilitation activities .

He was also placed on the sex offenders' register and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years.