A CREEP who was caught in a paedophile hunting group’s ‘sting’ after arranging to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl outside Ayr Sheriff Court has dodged a prison term.

Moustachioed David Hunter avoided jail after a judge told him that close monitoring in the community for a longer time would protect the public better than a shorter jail sentence.

The 57-year-old had been arrested outside the same building on Wellington Square following a reported ‘sting’ involving members of the Ayrshire-based Team Shades paedophile hunter group.

The court heard Hunter, who previously served prison time for violent offending, had to leave his then home in Minnoch Crescent, Maybole, after residents became aware of his attempts to meet a girl.

The Advertiser previously reported Hunter's arrest after the sting in March 2022.

A warrant for his arrest was later issued after he failed to appear in court to answer allegations of indecent communication and attempting to meet someone he thought was a child. 

In October, prosecutors described how Hunter hadn’t told his doctor about the legal proceedings when he sent his solicitor a work sick line.

Hunter later admitted attempting to send messages of a sexually explicit and indecent nature and requesting images of the girl between March 14 and 18, 2022.

He believed he was talking to a girl called Layla, aged 14, with the aim of obtaining sexual gratification or humiliating, distressing or alarming the recipient.

But the person receiving the messages was actually an adult decoy.

Hunter also pleaded guilty to arranging to meet the ‘child’ at Wellington Square with the intention of later engaging in unlawful sexual activity with them.

Hunter, now of Victor Street, Ayr, was later found to be using two online user names without having told police between November 23 and December 4 – a breach of the sexual offender notification requirements.

When Hunter returned to court for sentencing last week, defence solicitor Tony Currie said: "On the first matter he pleaded guilty at the continued first diet. The second matter [the notification breach] was a technical issue.”

Sheriff Desmond Leslie said: "One problem we have here is this happens in 2022, then we have, a year later, two different usernames being used. There could be a purpose."

Mr Currie added: "He is described in the report as someone who is quite isolated. He feels ashamed and shocked he allowed himself to do this, and I believe he is genuine.

"He was forced to leave his home after the local community got wind of it. He will have to come to terms with that."

Sheriff Leslie told Hunter: "It is extraordinary that a man of your age would conduct yourself in the way set out in these proceedings.

"To engage a 14-year-old in this action, expecting sex, is something you should be utterly ashamed about.

“Apparently the person was not a child, but not that you were aware who you were dealing with.

"[In the report] you say there was no sexual gratification, but that is something I cannot accept."

"You have a history of violence and have been in jail previously. Equally, that is concerning.

“However, given the background, I'm of the view you need help more than anything.

"One view is you are a dangerous person, evident by your record, and evident by the behaviour set out in the indictment. As such the public need protection.

"Ironically enough, a community payback order [CPO] gives the court control over you for a significant period of time.”

The CPO will last for three years, and Hunter was ordered to take part in the Moving Forward, Making Changes programme, which aims to address and change sex offenders’ behaviour.

He was also handed a six-month restriction of liberty order, lasting from 8pm to 7am each night, and will remain on the sex offenders register for five years.

A Team Shades spokesperson said: “We are glad our members actions led to this dangerous predator’s arrest and exposure in the courts and press.

"He is a danger to the community, but thanks to our volunteers he will now be monitored by the authorities.

“We urge all parents to be constantly checking their kids devices and social media and offering advice for such predators.”