Former Para Brian Cairney, 59, urged an online decoy whom he thought was a 12-year-old girl: “Put your hands inside your knickers and do as teacher tells you.”
He was spared jail after a sheriff told him no “real children” had been harmed.
Cairney – author of “Bunny Lucas & Harley Hare” books – was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and placed under supervision and on the sex offenders’ register for two years.
But as he left court he hit out the paedophile hunters who unmasked him.
He told a reporter: “I’ve had to close my books down because of what they have done to me.”
The disabled veteran trawled the internet for sex chats as he travelled round Scotland, staying in hotel rooms for his day job as a solar panels salesman.
Two of the contacts he made on singles website Mingle were vigilante group decoys posing as schoolgirls.
He asked the first: “Are you a naughty girl?”
When she replied, “I’m 12. I’m not naughty” he replied, “12, and you’re on an adult site, that deserves a spanking.”
When she told him she was supposed to be doing schoolwork at that point, he replied: “Put your hands inside your knickers and do as teacher tells you.”
She then asked, “Are you a teacher?” and Cairney replied, “Yes. A sex teacher.”
The decoy emphasised she was 12 and too young for sex, but Cairney continued to send her sexual messages and asked her if she was “horny”.
Less than three months later, he contacted another decoy who was posing on Mingle with the profile picture of a 13-year-old girl.
When Cairney contacted her, she replied she was 14, and Cairney replied, “14, wow, this is for 18s, this is a dating site where adults like to talk naughty.”
The decoy again said she was only 14, but Cairney continued to send her sexual messages.
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Moving the conversation to WhatsApp, Cairney asked her how developed she was, if she had breasts, and if she liked touching them.
Cheryl Clark, prosecuting, said: “When the decoy said she didn’t know what ‘f***’ meant, the accused sent further messages stating in detail.”
Eventually, in October 2020, a decoy used a solar panels enquiry to entice Cairney to an address in Whitburn, West Lothian, and he was arrested.
He said: “I thought it was an adult. I have children of my own.”
Ms Clark said the decoys involved aimed to “proactively identify people online seeking children for sexual gratification”.
At Falkirk Sheriff Court , Cairney, of Bexhill, Sussex, pleaded guilty to two charges of causing a person pretending to be a child to receive sexual communication, repeatedly sending them sexual messages.
The offences were committed between June 19th and September 23rd 2020 in Stirling, and Alexandria, Dunbartonshire. At the time Cairney was staying in hotels in Dumfries, and also in Yorkshire.
Solicitor Simon Hutchison, defending, described Cairney’s actions as “stupidity”.
He said: “He doesn’t accept there was ever any intention to meet up with anyone. He is now registered disabled. He is of impeccable character, having served his country for long before this, which I hope stands him in good stead.
“He is now in great financial difficulty, debt ridden, and now only has his war pension as an income.”
Sheriff Craig Harris said Cairney had sent “sickening messages” to females he believed were 12 and 14 years old.
He said: “The court could impose a custodial sentence today.
“The offences involve a high degree of culpability, and the intended harm is also high.”
But he said he would refrain from jailing Cairney, to “reflect the absence of actual harm, had the children been real”.
Cairney’s last book, “Bunny Lucas & Harley Hare – Grace the Rainbow Bird”, was sold by Waterstones and Amazon.