A 14-year-old schoolgirl climbed out of her bedroom window at midnight to meet a stranger she had met earlier in an internet chatroom.

The teenager met Anthony Burns who had pulled up close to her home in his car.

The pair then drove a short distance down the road and after getting out of the car the 25-year-old put his hand up her clothing.

St Albans Crown Court was told that later that night he contacted her again via the internet to say he had taken a picture of her bottom on his mobile phone and if she did not meet him he would put the picture up around her school.

Police were informed and Burns, who is now 26, was arrested at his flat in Watford.

In court today he pleaded guilty to meeting a child following sexual grooming, causing a child to engage in sexual activity, making indecent photos of a child, possessing indecent photos of a child and possessing extreme pornographic images.

The court heard when he was arrested police discovered child sex abuse images on his computer at his flat in Exeter Close, Watford.

Peter Shaw, prosecuting, said it was in July of last year that the girl, while talking to her friends on MSN, first made contact with the defendant who asked to be her "friend".

She thought it might be a boy from down her road and so she agreed.

The court heard at first there was general chat between them but the next day he introduced a sexual tone to the conversation.

He said he was 22 and when the girl said she was 14 he replied that he did not mind the gap.

The following day, said the prosecutor, Burns sent the girl a photo of himself and that evening when she was playing outside her home in Watford with her friends she recognised him behind the wheel of a car that kept driving past.

Mr Shaw said the girl hid, but at midnight when she was at home and talking to her friends on MSN, the defendant came online again and this time asked her to meet him out of the house.

"She left the house through a bedroom window and met him in the road where he was waiting in a car," said the prosecutor.

Judge Stephen Warmer was told they drove to the end of the road where, having got out, he kissed her before putting his hand up her clothing. She then went home.

It was later that night when he contacted her again that he claimed to have taken a picture of her bottom which he said he would put round her school if she didn't meet him.

The court heard police also went through a chat log of things said between the pair and Burns was also found to have offered her money for sex.

Diane Pigot defending said her client now recognised he had a problem and had taken steps to tackle it.

She said he was full of remorse for what had happened and since his arrest has found a girlfriend.

The barrister said her client had first made contact with the girl on an internet channel that you have to be 18 to enter.

She said as soon as the pair met he realised immediately she was 14 and now recognised the messages he sent her afterwards were "appalling".

Passing sentence Judge warner told Burns: "You took advantage of a 14-year-old girl who you contacted via the internet with a view to meeting her and with a view to having a sexual relationship with her."

The judge described the girl as "young and vulnerable".

But he said by offering the youngster money for sex and making an unpleasant threat regarding sending the picture to her school, he had shown himself to be "manipulative and predatory".

"It's quite clear you have an interest in underage girls, the images on your computer showed that to be the case," he said.

He sentenced Burns to 18 months imprisonment, ordered his name to be placed on the sex offenders register and ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the material found on his computer.

Burns was also made the subject of a sexual offences prevention order which will prevent him having any unsupervised contact with children under 16.