A HAMPSHIRE police worker was snared by paedophile-hunters after sending "abhorrent" images to people he thought were 13-year-old girls.

Police resources co-ordinator Andrew Grimsted was cornered outside his Southampton flat by members of Justice for the Innocent after posting footage of himself performing a sexual act.

He appeared at Southampton Crown Court yesterday and was handed a three-year community order.

Last night Justice for the Innocent described the sentence as "diabolical", saying Grimsted was in a position of trust and should have been jailed.

A spokesman said: "The sentence fails to reflect the seriousness of his crimes and what could have happened had there been no intervention by a decoy."

Christopher Wing, prosecuting, told the court: "The offences came to light after Grimsted went on the internet and thought he was communicating with young girls aged 13 or so.

"In fact he was communicating with members of a vigilante paedophile-hunters.

"They attended his address and detained him in the car park outside his home. Police were called and he was arrested on suspicion of grooming a child."

Justice for the Innocent filmed their confrontation with the defendant and posted the footage online.

Grimsted, 50, of Millbrook Road East, Southampton, admitted three offences of attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act and three of attempting to have sexual communication with a child.

Richard Onslow, mitigating, said: "These offences were committed by a man of previous good character with a sensible job who ought to have known better.

"Fortunately there was no actual child, so the harm is lower than it would have been had the full offence been carried out."

Judge Gary Burrell QC described Grimsted's actions as "abhorrent" and told him: "Sending moving images to people you believed to be young girls indicated something seriously wrong with your thinking."

But he added: "You're of previous good character and I'm required by law to take into account."

Grimsted was handed a 36-month community order, which includes a requirement to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

The defendant was a civilian employee based at Southampton Central Police Station.

Speaking after the case a Hampshire police spokesman said: "His role involved planning resources and did not involve any interaction with the general public.

"He remains suspended from the role and subject to ongoing gross misconduct procedures."

Detective Superintendent Nigel Lecointe, from Hampshire Constabulary's Professional Standards Department, added: "The investigation into Andrew Grimsted uncovered his attempts to exploit what he believed to be vulnerable children whilst he was off-duty.

"Hampshire Constabulary expects the highest standards from its officers and staff and will take action against those who commit criminal offences or breach the standards of professional behaviour.”