A paedophile who thought he was meeting a teenager in a McDonald's car park for sex has avoided jail after being handed a suspended sentence in court. 

Paul Warren, 53, thought he was messaging a 14-year-old boy on an online app - but was actually talking to a covert investigator from the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit as part of an operation to tackle child abuse.

Within minutes of starting the conversation, Warren suggested meeting in McDonald’s and they would drive to a car park where they would engage in sexual activity.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Paul WarrenPaul Warren (Image: NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE)

An hour later, he arrived at his proposed meeting place, where he was immediately arrested by North Yorkshire Police during the police sting.

Warren, from Harrogate, was charged with arranging to commit a child sex offence.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced by a judge at Teesside Crown Court to 16 months' imprisonment, suspended for 24 months on Wednesday (January 31).

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register.

After the hearing, Detective Constable Kerri Jones, of North Yorkshire Police’s Online Abuse Team, said: “Warren’s intentions towards children were distressingly clear.

“He suggested a sexual encounter within minutes of starting a conversation and it was obvious from his actions that he had every intention of meeting a teenage boy so he could sexually abuse him.

“The Online Abuse Team works proactively and sometimes covertly to identify those who pose a risk to children. And if we hadn’t apprehended Warren during this operation, it’s possible he could have engaged with a real child and carried out his plan.

"It’s reassuring to know one more sexual predator has been brought before the courts and dealt with.”