An Ipswich man who bombarded a 13-year-old schoolgirl with sexually explicit messages over the period of a year has avoided going straight to jail.

Joshua Coyne was handed a suspended prison sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

The 26-year-old would have gone on trial in March, but entered a guilty plea at the same court at the end of January - thus sparing his young victim from having to undergo videoed cross examination.

Coyne, of Eustace Road, was arrested after the girl told a parent.

Contact started in 2018, when Coyne approached the girl on Facebook Messenger with the greeting: "Hey, sexy."

Prosecutor Emma Nash said Coyne persuaded the girl to continue communicating on end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp, where he sent a further 122 messages, including offers to buy "sexy underwear".

When the girl stopped replying, Coyne sent 32 unanswered waving emojis before she finally responded and he incited her to engage in sexual activity.

"She repeatedly said no and tried to deflect the conversation, reminding him of the disparity between their ages," said Miss Nash.

Lynne Shirley, mitigating, said a psychological assessment and pre-sentence report gave a better understanding of Coyne, who she said had no previous convictions, had made no direct physical contact with the victim, and was ashamed of his behaviour.

She said Coyne exhibited high levels of anxiety and depression, and that a prison sentence could impede his long-term rehabilitation by removing important productive factors in his life.

Judge Emma Peters said Coyne had subjected the girl to a "bombardment" of extremely sexually explicit messages.

However, the victim had shown a great deal of character, sense and decency in her responses to his "appalling conduct", she said.

In a victim impact statement, the girl's mother said: "This horrific situation has caused so much interference on all our life as a family."

Coyne was sentenced to 11 months' custody, suspended for two years, with 140 hours of unpaid work, up to 20 days of rehabilitation activity, and a requirement to attend the Horizon programme for sex offenders.

He will also be the subject of a sexual harm prevention order and must sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

He was ordered to pay his victim £500 in compensation, which her family plans to donate to Ipswich charity Fresh Start – new beginnings.