A 40-YEAR-OLD Sixmilecross man who sent sexually explicit texts to three girls under the age of 16, was spared from going to prison because he did not make an attempt to meet his victims. Sean McElhatton (40) of Main Street agreed to spend three years on Probation during which time he will participate in a Community Sex Offenders group work programme. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders register for five years. At Dungannon Crown Court on Friday, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC also imposed a five year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) which prohibits McElhatton from having any contact or communication with any child under 18 years and remain under the direction of a Designated Risk Manager. He sent texts to three children between the ages of 13 and 16, with messages to two of the girls being of a sexual nature. He was convicted on charges of attempted to incite a child to engage in a sexual activity and two counts of harassment. He sent the texts between November 2011 and January 2012. Judge Miller stated that the content of the texts indicated that the defendant knew exactly what he was doing. Defence barrister Ian Turkington, instructed by solicitor Padhraic Cunningham, said his client’s abuse of alcohol had “desensitised him and allowed him to make the texts”. Mr Turkington pointed out that, at no stage, did McElhatton reveal his identity to his victims or arrange to meet them, which would have meant him receiving a prison sentence. Suggesting that he participate in the sex offenders programme, defence counsel stated the programme is endorsed by other judges. The court was also told McElhatton has been ostracised by the local community and his family because of his offending. Judge Miller said it was the duty of the court to make sure the issues regarding the offending were addressed. He added that a prison sentence would likely have been a matter of months and rhetorically asked whether that would have addressed the sex offending. The judge added that McElhatton had “acted entirely inappropriately” and there was an issue of an underlying sexual motivation. He also noted that the probation order and sex offenders programme would take a high level of commitment.