AN autistic man who sent an indecent picture to someone he thought was an 11-year-old girl has been spared jail.

Thomas Murray believed he was in conversation with the child, who was a police officer, on internet site ‘E-Chat’, Preston Crown Court heard.

The 25-year-old had been speaking to ‘Hannah’ for 80 minutes last January before moving to the website’s ‘just tease’ section.

Joe Boyd, prosecuting, said Murray, who had the username ‘’ requested the pair converse over Skype and exchanged ID addresses. Mr Boyd said: “The girl said she was 11, he said he was ‘24 and from Blackburn’.

“He wanted to know if she was alone, if she had a boyfriend. He asked her if she ‘would like to see it’, and then clarified he was talking about part of his body.

Mr Boyd said Murray then posted a picture.

The court heard Murray was arrested and found to have indecent images of a child on his phone.

Kimberley Obrusik, defending, said her client suffers from autism and found it hard to speak to people of a similar age group. She said: “This was an impulsive offence.

“He was having a significant number of issues in his life. He was very lonely, with no friends or friendship groups.

“When he sent the image he closed the conversation because he knew he had done something wrong. He is in a better place, mental health wise, now - he will not re-offend.”

Murray, of Jubilee Road, Haslingden, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to attempting to cause a child to look at an image of sexual activity and possession of indecent images of a child.

He was given a five-year sexual harm prevention order, two-year community order, ordered to complete 50 rehabilitation requirement days and ordered to pay surcharge costs. He was also told to sign the sex offenders register.

Judge Sara Dodd said: “I know your prison experience was not a happy one here, but it was only short. “If you do not comply with the order in any way or with probation then you will see me again.

“This is a very serious offence.”

“Firstly you were in contact with someone you believed to be (under aged) over Skype.

“You sent her a picture of your erect penis.

“If that was not troubling enough when you were arrested images were found on your phone.”

If you are concerned about what you are looking at online, or the online behaviour of someone you know, you can call the confidential and anonymous ‘Stop It Now’ helpline on 0808 1000 900 for advice and support.