A WROUGHTON man who tried to groom young girls online and had previously been arrested over abuse images has been spared jail.

Damien Whitehouse told mental health workers that he had been looking at pictures and videos of child rape to stop himself abusing youngsters in real life.

And after the 20-year-old, who suffers drug induced psychosis, had been treated at a secure unit he started using social media to chat with young girls.

Now, despite hearing he poses a high risk of reoffending, a judge said it was best for him to get treatment in society rather than go to prison.

Reacting to the sentence, Wiltshire Police said child protection remained their priority.

George Threlfall, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how Whitehouse first came to the attention of the police as a 17-year-old in November 2017.

Mental health staff at the Great Western Hospital were concerned as he told them he had been looking at child pornography online since he was just nine years old.

He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and once police were informed they went to his house and found hundreds of pictures and movies on his computers.

Mr Threlfall said when he was released from a secure unit in Devizes he went home and officers were again made aware of his online activities.

He had been using Kik Messenger and Skype to contact what he thought was a 13-year-old girl called Lily Jackson.

During increasingly sexualised chat he sent her images of his genitals and performing sex acts as well as asking her to send him similar material.

And when his new devices were seized it was found he had also been in similar contact with what is thought to be a real 12-year-old girl from Swindon.

As well as sending her similar pictures he also spoke about meeting up and asking her to bring condoms, though it never happened.

However as officers were unable to trace the child, it could not be proved she really was a 12-year-old rather than another internet user, the court heard.

When Whitehouse was questioned he admitted what he had done saying he had not been taking his anti-psychotic drugs at the time.

He agreed he had told nurses that he was sexually attracted to children but insisted he had never met one.

Whitehouse, of Priors Hill, Wroughton, admitted making indecent images of children, attempts to cause a child to engage in sexual activity and sexual communication.

Tony Bignall, defending, said when his client was taking his medication he did not offend, but without it he could not stop himself.

"He felt there was a devil on his shoulder telling him to do what he did even though he knew it was wrong," he said.

He is still living in he family home, he said, and is expected to be there with their support for at least the next few years.

Passing sentence Judge Jason Taylor QC told him that his not taking the medication was not the driving force for the offending and was concerned he still used cannabis.

He said: "In interview you made full admissions: said you have derived sexual pleasure from your actions.

"Despite you posing a high risk statistically of offending I am not going to find you dangerous

"It seems to me that you being rehabilitated is better for everyone all round, especially children. For those reasons I have decided to impose a suspended sentence."

Judge Jason Taylor QC imposed a two year jail term suspended for 24 months with a mental health treatment order, 25 days rehabilitation activity requirement and told him to do a sex offender programme. He must also abide by a sexual harm prevention order and register as a sex offender for ten years.

Reacting to the sentence, a spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police said: "Child protection is our priority and we will always do everything in our power to identify offenders and put them before the courts. We encourage anyone who is concerned for the welfare of a child or vulnerable person to contact us.”