AN EASTLEIGH man has been jailed for five years after he attempted to meet a person he thought was a child.

Simon Patrick Westwood exchanged messages, often of a highly sexual nature, with children over a nine-month period, a court heard.

The 46-year-old from Eastleigh also made arrangements and travelled to an agreed location to meet with who he believed was a child. The child was not real.

Westwood admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and arranging and or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.

The offences took place between January 2021 and October 2021.

He was jailed for five years at Southampton Crown Court on Monday.

Westwood was also ordered sign onto the sex offenders register as well as being made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Following the sentencing, Detective Constable Angela Smith-Jones said: “In a day and age where social media is so prevalent in young people’s lives, and the ease in which messages can be sent by people unknown to them, it is incredibly important that we, as the police, are in a position to investigate if we believe that criminal offences have taken place during these exchanges.

“During this investigation, we have worked closely with the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) in order to develop evidence against an individual who had every intention of meeting who they believed to be a child in order to commit sexual offences against them.

“We want to continue to protect any vulnerable people, including young children, against possible sexual exploitation and I hope that this conviction shows the lengths that we will go to investigate any such claims.

DC Smith-Jones added she hopes this sentence will alert others to the "dangers of the digital world" and encourage victims of child sexual abuse to come forward.

Detective Inspector James Oxley, of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “By working in collaboration with Hampshire Constabulary, officers were able to carry out a thorough investigation, demonstrating the lengths we continue to go to disrupt sexual exploitation and keep children safe from harm.”