A PAEDOPHILE took out £300 so he could pay to have sex with an 11-year-old girl, a court heard.

Matthew Millen travelled to Southampton to have sex with a young girl called Grace.

Using WhatsApp, the 44-year-old had arranged with her father “John Austin” to commit the act and even took a USB device with him so he could make a recording.

However, little did he know, the man he had been speaking to online between March 1 and 14 last year was, in fact, an undercover police officer.

After travelling from Essex via train he was arrested at McDonald’s in Westquay Shopping Centre in a sting led by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Prosecution barrister, Berenice Mulvanny said there had been a significant degree of planning and that Millen intended to commit the act with Grace’s father present.

Millen of Hall Park Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex was convicted of attempting to pay for the sexual services of a child following a trial at Southampton Crown Court.

With "compelling evidence" against him, a jury had found him unanimously guilty.

As part of his defence, Millen had argued he was a paedophile hunter and had been trying to catch John Austin.

His barrister, John Lucas argued that Millen, previously of impeccable character had worked hard all his life and had effectively been caught red-handed.

Mr Lucas added that Millen has lost his family, his job at the Bank of England, his house and he has also lost his daughter, potentially.

Millen is said to be extremely remorseful and admits that his actions were foolish.

During sentencing at Southampton Crown Court on Friday, Judge Gary Burrell QC described the events as a dreadful tragedy and warned that the offence was far too serious for a suspended sentence.

He jailed him for three years.

Millen will be subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and will have to register as a sex offender for life.

Judge Burrell also ordered the destruction of Millen’s phone which contained an indecent image.

Meanwhile, the confiscated £300 will be donated to a children’s charity.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Colin Haynes of SEROCU, said: “This was a particularly distressing case where Millen thought he was paying for the sexual services of a child that was only 11 years old.

“During the trial, Millen said he was attempting to expose other people involved in sexual exploitation, this was seen as a fabrication by the jury and he has been found guilty of these offences himself.

“This shows the lengths of depravity that Millen would go to in an attempt to conduct child sex abuse.

“This was a successful pro-active operation led by South East Regional Crime Unit officers, who have worked tirelessly to ensure Millen would be brought to justice.

“Protecting children from sexual exploitation is a continued priority of SEROCU and we will keep bringing those suspected of being involved in these offences through the courts.

“If you have any suspicions about behaviour of this nature or you have been the victim of child sex abuse, please report it to your local police force by calling 101 rather than taking your own action.

“You can also make a report to the independent charity Crimestoppers, and remain 100% anonymous by calling 0800 555 111.”