Married Reading man Peter McCaig cried out: "I will lose my wife" when he was snared by a group of vigilante paedophile hunters who lured him into believing he was meeting a 12-year-old girl.

The 31-year-old had been using an online chatroom to groom and arrange a meeting in Reading with a person he believed was a young girl.

He did not realise he was actually talking with a decoy, one of hundreds set up by volunteers to catch sex offenders.

McCaig had been cautioned for grooming young girls online just months before he was caught red-handed by the vigilante volunteer group named “Cobra.”

However, a judge spared him an immediate jail sentence after hearing he suffered from low self-esteem.

Instead he was given a suspended jail term and ordered to carry out unpaid work.

The defendant had sent inappropriate messages along with videos and photographs to what he thought was an unsuspecting 12-year-old girl, but when he arrived to meet another young girl, he was distraught to find paedophile hunters waiting for him and cried “I will lose my wife” and “I have a new job I am supposed to be starting.”

Charles Ward-Jackson, prosecuting, told a judge sitting at Reading Crown Court: “The defendant is aged 31 years and intended to meet a female child aged 12 years.

"The child was a decoy profile run by a volunteer on a chatroom.”

He told the court that on May 20 this year, McCaig sent messages received by the vigilante decoy.

One said: “You are beautiful baby... how old are you?”

When the "girl" replied with her age of 12 years, McCaig asked if she was a virgin and continued to ask her if she would like to engage in inappropriate acts.

“On the day Peter McCaig was set to meet the girl, a team of volunteers had travelled to confront the defendant, but on the way they received a message to say he was not coming,” added the prosecutor.

The court heard that the team members were keen to catch him so they sent him a message from another "young girl" he had been chatting to called Leah and he agreed to meet her instead, outside Lloyds Bank in the centre of Reading.

“A small female volunteer was sat on the bench in Reading town centre to act like the young girl," said Mr Ward-Jackson.

"When the defendant arrived in his car, the team blocked him in with their cars.

"The defendant became upset and said ‘I will lose my wife’ and ‘I have a new job I am supposed to be starting,” the prosecutor added.

He said that when McCaig was caught, he told the paedophile hunters: “I do not know what I was thinking, I cannot believe this is happening.”

McCaig was searched and found to have two condoms in his wallet.

The court heard that after his confrontation with the vigilantes about his attempt at sexual activity with a child, he was handed over to police for interview.

Mr Ward-Jackson confirmed that the defendant said very little when questioned apart from the fact he suffered from low mood and dyspraxia.

Judge Sarah Campbell was told that not long before the incident took place, that McCaig was given a chance by police, who gave him a warning for possession of indecent images.

It was found that the defendant had sent and requested images on a site named “kik” as well as requesting to meet a 13-year-old, blaming it on low self-esteem.

Judge Campbell sentenced McCaig to a 24-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered him to serve 150 hours of unpaid work.

McCaig, of Prior Close, Reading, was also ordered to be signed onto the Sex Offenders' Register.