AN “evil” paedophile who cited his Pagan beliefs in arranging to sexually assault an 11-year-old girl has been jailed for more than four years.

Steven Lawrence Coatsworth, of High Street, was arrested when his car broke down during a sting by an undercover police officer who had posed as the grandfather of the child facilitating a meeting between Coatsworth and the girl.

Winchester Crown Court heard that following his detention, the 52-year-old cited his Pagan beliefs and told police he thinks “it’s not age but consent” that is important in sexual relationships.

Describing his offences as “evil” Recorder Nick Atkinson QC sentenced Coatsworth to four-and-a-half years in prison after he admitted to attempting to arrange and facilitate the commission of a child sexual offence and six counts of making indecent images.

James Kellam, prosecuting, told the court that Coatsworth frequented numerous internet chatrooms – one of which was dedicated to the subject of incest.

In one of those chatrooms he began talking to a user named Al, who was actually an undercover officer, after asking if anyone could arrange for him to have sex with a child.

Al told him he could arrange for Coatsworth to meet his 11-year-old granddaughter.

Mr Kellam said: “The conversation continued in a private chat and, after negotiations, they made arrangements for the defendant to travel from Andover to the north of England.

“They would meet at a service station and proceed from there to meet the 11-year-old girl, and possibly a 12-year-old boy, for the children to engage in sexual activity and in probability for Coatsworth to engage in sexual activity with the girl.

“He set off on January 8. His car broke down and he was arrested halfway there.”

The court heard that Coatsworth told police he was a Pagan and that this led him to believe in the primacy of consent above all else.

He added: “He maintained to police that it was his view that the important issue in sexual relationships is not age but consent.

“He does not suggest that his beliefs required him to perform sexual activity with children.

“The probation reports suggest that he misrepresents Paganism to justify his desire for sexual conduct with children.”

Mr Kellam further described how, in his messages to Al, Coatsworth made reference to encouraging the children to drink alcohol if they were not “compliant”.

No alcohol was recovered from Coatsworth’s car when he was arrested.

The prosecution made clear that no child was ever in danger and that Coatsworth’s crime was an “attempt at the impossible that did not get all the way up the motorway”.

Rina-Marie Hill, mitigating, said that her client had “not changed his views at all” regarding consent and that he denies having a sexual attraction to children. She said that, as he had already spent four months in custody, Coatsworth would benefit from a rehabilitation programme to “look at his views and to consider his behaviour”.