A 52-YEAR-OLD sex offender, snared in a police operation in which he had online sex chats with a person he believed to be a 12-year-old girl, has been sentenced to supervision.

Peter Houlihan’s sick messages were being sent straight to a police officer, as part of a decoy operation run from England.

Houlihan, of Back o’ Yards, Inverkeithing, appeared for sentencing at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.

He admitted previously that between December 8-11, he sent sexual communications via the WhatsApp and Fast Flirting platforms to a police officer then posing as a 12-year-old girl.

Sheriff Alastair Brown imposed a community payback order with six months of supervision. Houlihan was also placed on the sex offenders' register.

Depute fiscal Freya Anderson-Ward told the court previously that East Midlands police had set up an operation where officers would pose as children online.

An officer was making posts as a 12-year-old girl called ‘Sam’ on the Fast Flirting platform when Houlihan made contact.

They engaged in a conversation which they then moved on to WhatsApp.

At one point, Houlihan said to ‘Sam’: “You’re only a kid” but he then went to make the conversation sexual, repeatedly asking about her masturbating.

He asked: “Have you ever touched yourself when you talk to the big boys, do you like it?”

He continued asking Sam about sexual matters over “a prolonged period”.

When arrested, he claimed he thought ‘Sam’ was 18.

However, defence solicitor Aime Allan said her client accepted that he was told the girl was only 12 and his comment to the police when arrested was made out of “panic”.

She added:, “He can offer no explanation for his behaviour and accepts he made a huge mistake.”