A father-of-four who sent a teenage girl a picture of his penis has narrowly avoided going to jail.

Jason King, 39, a mechanic from Watford, sent the explicit image to the 15-year-old girl who had refused his request for a picture of her breasts.

King sent the girl two pictures of himself after engaging in inappropriate chat over Facebook and WhatsApp, St Albans Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Christopher Hewertson said that in April last year, King had suggested that the girl - who cannot be identified - should share a cannabis joint with him.

He said: "He was engaging with her in adult and inappropriate conversations."

By June, he was asking her to send pictures, but she responded by sending one of her face with two fingers raised. He replied: "Still sexy. S... shouldn’t have said that".

Mr Hewertson went on: "He talked about having sex with her and about how much he and she would enjoy it."

King asked for a picture of her breasts, but she refused.

He, however, sent her a picture of his torso - which could be identified by his tattoos - and his penis. King told the girl it was just between the two of them and that she should delete the messages.

Later that day the girl sent him a message saying: "Don’t you feel wrong doing this?"

She told an adult relative and the police were contacted.

King appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual communication with a child under 16.

Defending, Andel Singh said that King needed expert help to get to the root cause of the problem.

Recorder David Osborne told him: "You have committed a very serious offence.

"When people are young and going through adolescence it can be a confusing time for them.

"It is not helped by the predatory attitude of older people - they require protection from people like you."

The judge said he had escaped going straight to prison by a "whisker."

King was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

King must attend the Horizon sex offender treatment programme and attend 20 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

He must abide by a three month curfew between 7pm and 7am, and register as a sex offender for seven years.

He is also banned, for seven years, from contacting anyone under 16 on the internet.