A 29-year-old tennis coach described as a ’predatory paedophile’ has avoided jail for after being convicted of having sex chats with a 13-year-old girl.

Emyr Pepperell, of Two Mile Lane, Highnam, Gloucester, who was assistant coach at Ross-on-Wye Tennis Club at the time of the offences, told the girl she was ’hot’.

But his illegal conversations with the girl were stopped when her mother discovered what was going on, confronted him online, and alerted the police.

Pepperell was then arrested and the tennis club dismissed him as soon as it learned of the allegations.

Last month a jury found Pepperell guilty of engaging in sexual communication with a child between November 30 and December 3, 2019 for the purposes of sexual gratification and last Tuesday (November 23) he was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court.

Pepperell, who changed his appearance while awaiting sentence and now has long blond hair, was sentenced by the judge, Recorder Suzanne Chalmers, to a three year community order, during which he has to do 150 hours of unpaid work and attend 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The Recorder also barred him from working with children in the future.

Recorder Chalmers told Pepperell "You were 27 at the time when you contacted the girl for over a month over the internet claiming to be much younger than your real age.

"No record of these conversations could be obtained, but you have admitted that they were sexual in nature.

"After communicating with your victim for about a month, she told you that she had only just turned 13 and you asked her about that in a sequence of messages.

"The conversation did stop, but not at your instigation - it was because your messages were intercepted by the girl’s mother.

"In your defence, it was suggested that your behaviour towards the girl could be explained by the fact she was engaging in your conversation. I absolutely reject that.

"She was a child, only just in her teens, and you were the adult. We have heard the victim’s statement in which she has described her feelings because of your conduct - shame, vulnerability, loss of self esteem and self confidence and has been referred for counselling.

"You continued to engage in sexual conversation when she told you she was 13. You then checked that she was deleting the incriminating messages from you.

"This offending crosses the custody threshold but in my mind your case would best be served with a three year community order."

The young victim said in her statement: "I want Pepperell to know that I hate him. He made me feel that I was a stupid liar, ashamed, humiliated and vulnerable. He stole my innocence and I hate him for it.

"I’ve gone from a normal happy child to someone who needs counselling. I have breakdowns at school, mood swings and severe depression, low self esteem, feeling suicidal and paranoid."

Chloe Griggs, defending, said it was Pepperell’s case that he always believed the girl to be 16 and not 13.

"He was convicted for having a conversation with her over three days," she said.

"Following the publicity surrounding his conviction, Pepperell has since lost his job and has closed down all his social media accounts.

"He has submitted a number of character references to the court which demonstrate that his offending is uncharacteristic in nature. This was an isolated incident which happened while he was suffering from a decline in his own mental health. He was diagnosed with depression in December 2019, the same month in which this conversation occurred.

"In his interview with the probation service he made no attempt to deny or justify his behaviour.

"He has shown significant remorse and is disgusted with himself that he had this sexual conversation with a minor and realises the impact it has had on her."

Pepperell was subjected to the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for seven years, limiting his use of the internet, placed him on the sex offenders’ register for the same time period and an indefinite restraining order not to contact his victim by any means. The Recorder barred him from working with children.

Prosecutor James Tucker originally told the jury that Pepperell first started talking to the girl online she was only 12 but she claimed to be sixteen.

The girl, now aged 14, told the trial that on December 1, 2019 she had opened up to him and told him that she wasn’t 16. Pepperell then asked her ’How old are you?’ and she told him she was 13 - yet he still carried on with his sexual advances.

The jury was told that Pepperell had threatened he was going to kidnap the girl and the final message between them stated ’I’d really like to have sex with you right now’ but the girl’s mother discovered what had been going on and she took over the conversation with Pepperell on December 3, 2019.

"Pepperell then tells the mother ’Your daughter told me she was 16’, to which the mother responded ’She told you her real age yet you carried on, you little paedophile. I am reporting this to the police’."

The victim said in evidence: "When I told him my real age he continued asking me to send him pictures of my private parts. I only sent him pictures of my face and other parts of my body because I didn’t want to take it any further.

"I was really worried at the time, but when my Mum found out she told the police and I felt very relieved."