A repeat sex offender from Westbury has been caught by police and jailed after sexting an undercover police officer he believed was a 13-year-old girl.

Daniel Thomas, 33, was caught following out when he sent sexual messages over social media to a 13-year-old girl, who turned out to be a specially trained police officer.

The Wiltshire Police investigation to catch the repeat offender took place between May 4 and June 27 of this year, and was supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU).

After communicating with what he believed to be a teenage girl, Thomas turned the conversation sexual and he was subsequently arrested on June 28 on suspicion of engaging in sexual communications with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and causing a child to watch a sexual act.

He had also breached his sexual harm prevention order, and was subsequently charged and remanded into custody.

This is not the first time that Thomas has tried to have sexual communications with a child.

In 2020, he was found guilty of sending an 11-year-old girl instructions on how to masturbate, sharing indecent images of children online and having child sex abuse images saved.

The girl was believed to be a real child, rather than an undercover police officer or member of a vigilante group.

However, the judge at the time spared him an immediate spell of custody after hearing how he had stayed out of trouble since being released from prison in 2019, and used colouring books as a way to control his urges.

Prosecutor Mark Ashley had told the court that Thomas was first in trouble in 2016 for having indecent images of children. He was given a suspended sentence and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

In the most recent case on Wednesday, November 1 at Salisbury Crown Court, he was sentenced to four years and four months in prison, plus three years on extended licence.

PC Whittaker of the Management of Sexual or Violent Offenders unit said: “Thomas is a repeat offender who has persistently targeted children and attempted to engage them in sexual activity.

“Through actively managing his sexual harm prevention order, we were able to monitor his behaviour and implement a decoy which allowed us to successfully bring this prosecution and protect children from him.”

Detective Inspector David Wells from the Online Investigations Team at the sexual offenders unit said: “The repeated attempts by Daniel Thomas to engage young children in sexual activity online show the high level of risk he posed, and the sentence handed down this week reflects that.

“This is challenging but vital work. Law enforcement agencies are across the internet determined to ensure offenders like him don’t succeed in abusing and exploiting children.  It is crucial parents and children themselves take steps to protect against the threat.”

The NSPCC website has clear and extensive advice for parents and carers, children and young people, about engaging with social media.

If you have concerns about your own use of the internet or inappropriate thoughts or behaviour about children, or you are worried about how someone you know behaves, then contact the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.