Parents of several boys who were being groomed on the internet have been praised by police for raising the alarm.
Phillip Steven Smith, of Cannon Wilson Close, Haydock, posed as a teenager and used several different names to entice the boys into sending sexually explicit images of themselves.
Smith, 20, would make sexual suggestions to his victims, aged between 11 and 14, before sending explicit images of himself to them.
He used false names and sent pictures of other children to mask his own identity before trying to persuade the boys to send pictures of themselves and would try and arrange to meet up with the boys in person.
But parents of some of the boys, who were from Merseyside, Lancashire, Manchester, North Wales and Dorset, spotted the unusual conversations and alerted the police.
Smith was caught after detectives from St Helens CID’s Child Sexual Exploitation unit linked the cases and identified Smith before searching his home under warrant last October.
Smith was found to have 71 indecent images of children on two computers.
Smith was given a three-year community order, a lifetime Sexual Harm Prevention Order and was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years at Liverpool Crown Court today, Monday.
Det Insp Martin Earl from St Helens CID said parent intervention had prevented more boys from being further victimised.
“Phillip Smith is a determined sex offender who pursued teenage boys who he knew were much younger than him and therefore below the age of consent,” he said.
“Yet he deliberately masqueraded as a teenager himself in order to strike up conversations and build trust with teenagers, using the anonymity that the internet provides, in the hope of a sexual encounter.
“Sadly in some cases he was successful in persuading his victims to share photographs of themselves with him and those young people will no doubt be affected by being exploited by Smith for some time to come.”