A woman has been sentenced at court after being trapped by online paedophile hunters when she arranged to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex in Sidbury.

Jessica Smith, who is a transgender woman, sent a stream of sexual messages to what she believed were two 14-year-old schoolgirls without realising that they were in fact decoys set up by a group called Justice for the Tears.

She sent pictures which she claimed to be of her private parts and asked for the girls to reciprocate and arranged for one to visit her at Smith’s home in East Devon.

She even asked one of the girls to bring along a 12-year-old friend to the rendezvous at the small village of Sidbury, near Sidmouth.

The paedophile hunters were surprised to find what they assumed to be a man rather than a woman lurking in a hedge near the designated meeting place.

It turned out to be Smith, in male persona. Police were called and arrested her. A mugshot picture taken shortly afterwards shows a person with obvious stubble.

Smith, aged 41, now of Sydney Road, Exeter, admitted three counts of attempting to incite a child to sexual activity and one of arranging to commit a child sex offence.

She was jailed for two years and ten months and put on the sex offenders register for life by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

He told her:”A psychiatric report is of the opinion that your long-standing gender dysphoria and issues of sexual identity contributed to your anxiety and depression but no evidence of severe depression or psychotic disorder.

“The facts of the case are straightforward. You thought you were talking to someone aged 14 on social media and within ten minutes you turned the conversation to sexual matters.

“You claimed to be 20 when you were in your late 30s at the time. I fail to understand why you thought this was appropriate for any reason other than your sexual gratification.”

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said Smith made contact in the summer of 2018 with two fake profiles which had been set up online and purported to be 14-year-old girls.

The group which had set up the sting arrived to find Smith hiding in a hedge and claiming to be a man who had been sent to fetch the child. Smith was arrested when police were called.

Miss Caighli Taylor, defending, said Smith was depressed and isolated at the time because of her complex gender identity issues and a sense of loss after family bereavements.

She said: “Her use of pornography escalated and while it is no excuse, she was in a very bad place. She has since moved to Exeter and there are more positive things in her life.”